None of this crap really fixes anything, it's just a way for Western people to pander to a hyper-liberal worldview that "solves" peripheral problems because it's too privileged to fully understand the central problems facing the world.
I read a paper someone posted on here a few months back that described men as less environmentally conscious when their masculinity is threatened. The experiment itself was poorly structured and rife with assumptions of what constitutes environmental consciousness and threats to masculinity. I bring this up because it's an example of multiple academics devoting their time to totally nonessential problems in an effort to gain recognition in the winds of a hyper-liberal zeitgeist.
Hunger, access to goods, guaranteed medical care, literacy, freedom from tyranny and corruption, democratic institutions in the third world, clean water.....these are some of the actual problems that face the world.
Single-use plastics are a problem too, but plastic straws are not the central aspect nor the simplest low-hanging fruit with which to begin tackling the plastics problem.
No matter the limits of the study, though, comparing an academic study, even one that's biased by the author's ideology and worldviews in general (like any and every scientific study every written, especially those about political issues) with a purely activist action is questionable. The very process behind them are different. Plastic straws ban was just impulsed by some viral videos of turtles with straws stuck in their noses. There's a logical chain of event which makes considering this as "virtue signaling" a fair analysis. It's questionnable to assume academics who linked environmental consciousness with masculinity were actually virtue signaling and looking for some recognition when it could just be that their worldview and past experiences "naturally" lead to such hypotheses and the way they built their study just proved their point due to how they were designed.
Secondly, the way you hierarchize what you consider real issues vs unimportant ones also betrays your own position and is by no means absolute, AND it's not a good argument I believe. 99%¨of what I see on HN is not relevant to actual problems as you define them, for starters. And more than 99% of research activity is disconnected from any of those issues, and making all research focus on such issues wouldn't even help anyway, or so I believe. The academic study you refer to does not by any means claim to be revolutionnary when it comes to solving environmental issues, but it is very plausible that a part of why so many people don't care much about the environment is tied to sociocultural factors.
You managed to crystallize my exact thoughts into words.
Perhaps that could have been done while keeping the straws.
Lots of hand-waving about taxation on big businesses isn't useful if there's no pressure from the general public to get us there. Framing the issue with something as relatable as straws gives some grounding, providing a foundation to build the harder arguments on.
We started with plastic bags in the UK, we're working our way through straws (and things like wasting ugly food), momentum builds, and soon you'll have an entire populace trained to spot wasteful use of resources. It's a giant education piece for millions of people - edging and nudging behaviour, where "shock change" has fundamentally failed so far.
You also diminish the importance of simple-minded satisfaction. We want people to run towards solutions, not be beaten away from bad habits.
The format wasn't great (too much in too short a time), but one assertion was made that the damage caused by 1 'bag for life' was equal to 100+ disposable bags.
This seems to stem from a UK Government comparative study  of supermarket bags, which showed that a cotton reusable bag must be reused 131 times to match the lower environmental impact of a conventional plastic shopping bag used just once.
However non-cotton bags had far lower reuse levels, and it isn't clear at a quick glance how they determine environmental impact. They also neglect to account for double-bagging that used to be prevalant, or the larger bag sizes of "bag-for-life" meaning you need fewer bags for your shopping. It looks from that report that typical bags need to be reused 4 or 5 times to be effective.  suggests an average of 6 times.
One thing that has changed though with the 5p charge, coupled with things like Blue Planet -- people think about their use. In the past people would have a bag when buying 2 or 3 things, now they often don't, using pockets or existing bags. The change in attitude is probably more of an impact than bag reuse.
$1 sounds far better though -- fewer people will treat them as disposable. I guess you should vote with your wallet.
As the article stated, the global problem of plastic waste entering the ocean may be big, but it is definitely not intangible. The source of most plastic entering the ocean is poor coastal countries that lack developed solid waste management. (By contrast, the US is responsible for only 1% of plastic that enters the ocean annually.)
It took me some time, but I found a non-profit that helps develop waste management in African countries. If you want to make a tangible difference in future oceanic plastic waste volume, a donation here might help: http://www.waste.nl/
We are multiple large breakthroughs away from recycling technology becoming a viable path towards meaningful reduction of ocean-bound waste. Meanwhile, poor coastal nations continue to use the ocean as a landfill.
Assuming you’re able to dodge corruption in local officials, a dollar towards waste management development in Africa will go much further (in reduced kg/year of trash going into the ocean) than a dollar towards recycling technology R&D.
...all those billions of straws add up to only about 2,000 tons of the nearly 9 million tons of plastic waste that yearly hits the waters.
>And, as of early 2018, data from Ocean Conservancy’s TIDES system shows us that straws/stirrers are the 11th most found ocean trash in cleanups, making up about 3% of recovered trash.
Recovered trash is maybe be different than total trash?!
If straws have an undesirable externality, that externality should be compensated for. We do this by taxation.
If you want to consume a beverage while driving, a covered cup with a straw is much easier.
(One could now say “Americans shouldn’t drive so much!” or “don’t consume food while driving”, I guess. We should probably also build more dense housing in walkable neighborhoods, invest in mass transit, and shorten commutes and working hours so everybody has time for a leisurely breakfast at the neighborhood cafe.)
The other one does not offer stoppers. So I have to improvise with either wooden stirrers or plastic (for now) straws. The wooden stirrers don't fill the sipping hole entirely but they do enough to the movement of the coffee that I don't have to worry about coffee sloshing out. But they make the coffee taste like wood. So I use a plastic straw. At first I took their advice and did not drink through the straw. But if the coffee has cooled sufficiently to be sipped carelessly, it can be sipped through a straw.
Here's an idea. An autoclave, IV hardware, and coffee sold to the public in pouches. The hardware is reused with the help of the autoclave.
C'mon Starbucks, with all your profits, you can do better than this.
it helps, whether good dental care or not, to find ways to prevent staining your teeth as part of regular, daily routine
Straws really are only necessary with extremely elderly people, the sick and young children wherever one can't reliably lift the cup to their lips because of limited motor skills. Or perhaps in the USA where people drink 32 OZ beverages from a bucket that is liable to spill because of the waves caused by the ice cubes bobbing around in it.
No more soda, no more coffee, no more stains, no more jitters. Detox is unpleasant but only takes a couple days. The cravings never go away though.
Yep, it's pure politics, and it's not much different than any other political situation. Most of the people speaking up are more concerned with HOW a problem is addressed, rather than IF that problem is actually addressed. They don't ask for less crime or mass murder, they ask for gun control. They don't ask for lower unemployment, they ask for immigration enforcement. And, politicians are only measured by whether they implemented those specific controls, and not at all for whether they actually managed to make progress towards solving or reducing a problem.
I have somewhat sensitive teeth and kind of miss them, but I'll bring my own, probably reusable, if I start to feel strongly about it and right now you can get a straw if you ask for it (though I expect that will go away at some point).
Note also paper straws are a thing.
1. Commercial waste management is different from residential waste management.
2. By removing nonrecyclable plastic straws, Starbucks removed a source of contamination for their plastic recyclables. Thus, the percentage of their plastic that is recycled would have gone up even more under the assumption that their commercial waste management company wasn't already filtering out straws.
This is no small error. The author should have known to delve into this more because increasing recyclability was the whole reason Starbucks removed straws with a big hullabaloo.
This is par for the course for the poorly named "Reason," which pushes a wishful thinking philosophy that unregulated markets solve all problems. https://reason.com/blog/2016/11/18/is-climate-change-already...
Instead of ditching the straw, they should switch to a cardboard straw that is biodegradable.
In either case, the article's throwaway dismissal of the whole reason Starbucks removed disposable straws to begin with is lazy and misleading. A correct analysis would thoroughly analyze the recycling end.
Coincidentally I think the last time I used a cardboard straw was at the Mumbai airport Starbucks. Maybe that was a test site for doing what you suggest.
Compostable straws cost six to seven times more than their plastic alternatives, don't keep for long, and fall apart when exposed to high heat
Consider that the recycleable lid isn't immersed in hot coffee.
Are any kind of straws? I had no idea people are using straws with hot drinks.
I drank my hot coffee out of one today.
But what does toxicity have to do with what I said?
Also, would compostable straws be an option? (assuming they do not end up in the landfill, and only distributed on demand to reduce waste).
Fast food better fix itself, or we will end up demonizing the entire industry, for its abundance of litter all over the place and subsidizing the cleanup.
I'm sorry to say, but recycling plastic doesn't work all that well. I believe one problem is that straws couldn't be recycled (and I think these lids can?), but then the next problem is, who is going to recycle all this plastic  and what is the recycled product going to be? You can't make a new lid out of an old on, unfortunately.
If we argue in favour of the status quo, which we know is broken too, waiting for a perfect solution, then absolutely nothing will change.
There are easy ways to fix the recycling crisis, but it also means changing some habits.
the chemical cocktail we are burying as a world is just amazing, all those cleaning chemicals, used oils, paints, and more. I know some regions tried incineration and I would like to think it is more environmentally friendly than simply burying it.
I'm not trying to side on, "let's just bury everything", but as a thought experiment:
Would you rather be in a room where there's a plastic line trash can filled with a variety of trash, or in that same room, where that trash is currently on fire?
Think about it this way: If CO2 had a color and producing it by driving a car would lead to purple billowing smoke, cars wouldn't exist, I don't believe. But because it's invisible, we also think the problem is invisible. Sort of like burning trash.
At least with a landfill, we see, "Guh, that's just a big pile of trash! That's gross!"
Landfill contaminate ground water. There are no good way to fix. Water-proof layers have problem with rain. Building a sewage system open another can of worms.
Sealing... I have no idea how can you seal this amount of land.
There are no options that are suitable for disabled people.
I'd recommend following Lawrence Carter-Long (he manages the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund) on Facebook; he's made a number of public posts about it lately, and the comments on his posts tend to be very good.
Here's the text of one of his posts:
> FACT: A soggy paper straw increases the risk of choking. Most paper and silicone alternatives are not flexible, eliminating arguably the most important feature used by people with mobility disabilities. Metal, glass and bamboo straws present obvious dangers for people who have difficulty controlling their bite, as well as those with neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s. Some disabled folks use straws when drinking coffee or eating soup, yet most of the alternatives--including the leading biodegradable straw--are not suitable for drinks over 40°C/104°C. Furthermore, re-useable straws are not always hygienic or easy to clean in public places.
And here's a comment he made on another of his posts:
> 1. Glass straws can break. That's dangerous. For everyone.
> 2. Metal straws don't always adapt to temperature changes well. And can burn people.
> 3. At present, paper and biodegradable straws often break down faster than a lot of disabled folks can use 'em. A straw isn't much use when it is falling apart.
> 4. Reuseable straws are useful only if and when you can wash them right after using and if you have a way to store them. They also have to be easy for folks to carry with them every time they leave the house. Not possible for everyone.
> 5. What if you decide on the spur of the moment to go have a drink with friends after work but forgot your reusable straw that day? Doesn't leave a lot of room for spontaneity -- something non-disabled folks get to largely take for granted.
Here's an article from a disabled person, who breaks down the (as they say, mostly-online debate) of disabled people and reusable straws. They then test a variety of options:
I really am not understanding the problem. If the goal is to reduce single-use plastic and waste, allowing disabled people to use whatever the hell the want/need to do normal everyday tasks isn't incompatible.
Just allow restaurants to have some straws for people who ask for them, and clearly have a right to use them (pass/amend a law if you have to).
As with web accessibility, where possible, the best solution is to make the solution that is given to all the rest of us the same solution that disabled people are given. Sometimes we can't do that (e.g. special handicapped spots near the extrance to a building are valuable), but that shouldn't be our standard approach.
For example, here's a comment on one of the posts on Lawrence Carter-Long's Facebook page:
> Not an answer to your question, but I wanted to report to you in case it's useful for your media appearances (and thank you for being our spokesperson!): Yesterday I was at an upscale restaurant, one of my favorites where I have dined countless times before. I ordered a ginger ale and they brought it in a glass with ice, no straw. I asked our server, politely of course, for a straw when she had a chance. She replied "Actually we are doing a no straw policy now. It's better for the earth" (or something along those lines). After a little bit more about eco stuff, during which I was just kind of in shock, she then added, "but if you want one, you can ask for it," which was said in quite an unfriendly voice although up until that point she had been a very smiley, friendly server. I replied "As a disabled person who needs a straw, I am going to request one." and then she brought one. But it was very uncomfortable and everyone at my table agreed that while we all supported having an "opt-in" policy, once I had asked for a straw, the policy should be to bring one rather than trying to basically "eco-shame" people out of asking. My disability, a genetic connective tissue disorder, was not visible to the waitress, but it means that when drinking from a glass, especially with ice, I have trouble swallowing without using a straw. Without a straw I am likely to choke, splutter, and/or spill my drink down my front. I felt humiliated and angry that I had to out myself as disabled in order to get the straw I asked for. Please feel free to use this story in your interviews if it's useful, and if not, thanks for listening to me vent!
In the long run, that doesn't work well for ANYONE.
This would be a reasonable objection if plastic straws were going to drastically change our impact on the environment. If we were a near zero-emission, zero-waste society, and plastic straws were the last thing holding us back from sustainability on a thousand-millions of years time frame, then maybe we should force the issue.
But until then, making life harder for disabled people in order to make a tiny dent at the edges of the pollution our society creates is not worth it.
One could use the, "I'm not given up x, until y is reached" for almost anything that's a contemporary convenience or luxury. That's stymies most any progress.
If the problem is people's view on disabled people, then we need to change people's view. If right now, we can get rid of plastic, single-use straws, except for disabled people, then to me: that sounds like a very reasonable compromise to marginally remove new plastic from the environment.
My point isn't "never do anything small", it's "find something else to do that doesn't hurt people who really deserve better".
I'm saying we can live without them; we did before and for most of recorded human history.
This isn't an impossible problem to solve.
Any appeal to what we did for most of human history is worthless. The question is, given modern technology, how can we do best for all of us?
Are we going to need a handicap placard to get a straw with our drink ?
Making the process to concede special privilege to those with needs beyond others or those with certain disabilities in a dignified way seems like a righteous use of time to write correctly and fairly to me.
Probably the best thing that could happen for our health?
Maybe even offer a 10 cent discount for using the glasses.
To add: I used to bring my own reusable cup, but more times than not, they’d make my drink in a disposable plastic cup, then pour it into my mug, and immediately toss the disposable cup. Now I mainly make my coffee at home using a moka pot. Saves money and plastic. I still buy Starbucks when I travel, and just feel bad about the wasted plastic.
Starbucks really needs to reinvent the whole process for people who bring their own mugs. Like having a reusable Maker cup behind the counter or something.
But most people want a coffee mug that looks like an Elephant or has a Batman handle. They don't understand the value in paying $10 for something that looks like a disposable cup.
And we just tell each other what the drink should be. It works fine when its only a couple drinks like that, but if everyone brought reusable mistakes would happen.
Maybe they have a better sticky note solution now, it's been a while since I worked there.
But this is incompatible with online ordering, and who has an extra 10 minutes to wait in line? Could they have some kind of reusable cup service, where you could get a reusable cup with your order? Then return it next time - kinda like milk delivery.
They could go the way of the plastic bags in supermarkets and frame it as a "cup tax" like cities do.
Or, erm, I guess that would be the city that does that.
Boulder has the Sugar Sweetened Beverage Tax, but I don't think a Frappuccino is taxed, even though it's calories come from mostly sugar.
I'm not sure why cold coffee served in plastic... but it may be a flipped problem - you probably don't want to serve hot coffee in plastic, as the chemicals will leach out of the plastic itself (yum)
> Starting today, Starbucks is committing $10M in partnership with Closed Loop Partners and its Center for the Circular Economy to establish a groundbreaking consortium to launch the NextGen Cup Challenge. This is the first step in the development of a global end-to-end solution that would allow cups around the world to be diverted from landfills and composted or given a second life as another cup, napkin or even a chair – anything that can use recycled material.
Other Seattle coffee shops use compostable coffee cups. Microsoft and UW have for over a decade. I'm not sure what further innovation is needed. Here is a wholesale distributor of compostable coffee cups and soup bowls.
My concern though, is that it results in needing wash more dishes with clean water, a precious and vital resource, so I don't know how to tell if the net exchange is good or bad.
I know, it doesn't make for an exciting headline. Though I would have liked the sound of "Starbucks doesn't want you to know about this technique for drinking your coffee."
Is this better than the straws? Seems like it. But it would be a whole lot better to actually reduce the quantity of plastic.
On one hand, yes, it is silly to put so much focus on disposable straws. On the other hand, it's such a low hanging fruit and should be so easy to get rid of. There's just no need for them in 99.9% of cases, and they're simply thrown in a pile to sit for 10000 years after spending 15 minutes in a drink.
Also, the paper straw claim is pretty dubious. The nearest pizza place to my office has been using paper straws for months. Never had one "collapse" mid drink, even after an hour or more. The author is resorting the the pseudo-journalistic "people are saying" technique to make a BS argument. I'm a person, and I'm saying paper straws are just fine! Why not "quote" me in the article?!?
There are some pretty robust bamboo straws, but they have the same displeasing mouthfeel.
Well it turned out that the energy requirements were so high to create the plastic that it actually used more oil than regular plastic. It's not until we reach a much higher rate of renewable energy does it actually make sense.
Using more energy is a fair trade even if it's sourced from hydrocarbons initially. It wouldn't be much of a stretch for a compostable plastics company to use "made with 100% renewable energy" as a selling point.
I pick up litter at a nearby creek. Most straws tend to very quickly break down in a brittle way into smaller pieces that become increasingly much more difficult to see and pick up. If I see a glass bottle or a straw, that is an immediate pick up to avoid it getting broken down further.
Why are they single use? Because they're commercially cheaper to throw away and replace. So straight away, if we're going to legislate anything, it should not be that you cannot use plastics, or a centrally collected tax... It has to a requirement that you pay for the collection and recycling of any plastic your business uses. Start requiring that and you'll see many of the single-use plastic bullshit packaging vanish overnight.
Starbucks are making these new lids out of polypropylene. Unlike a straw a lid is very easy to wash and PP suits this just fine. A clear PP is also a lot more valuable to recycling as it is purer, and easier to use than a dark green PP (or polystyrene, I'm not sure what Starbucks are currently using).
Should also add that the ~"omg think of the disabled children" comment is ridiculous. People who need straws to drink will a) carry reusable straws with them and b) still be able to get alternative material straws from Starbucks. I've used both wax paper and cellulose straws. They're both fine in cool drinks.
There's a plant called "horsetail", which is one of the earliest plants that still happens to exist to this day.
Horsetails are very simplistic; basically, they're mostly hollow shoots. Very thin, but rigid and fairly durable. They can vary in size depending on species, but the ones I've seen growing in California happen to be straw-sized.
I imagine they can be easily reamed, dried on rods so that they keep their shape, and then cut and packaged.
Of course this is hypothetical, so I don't know if it would really work, but I also don't know if this has been tried.
The straws they sell at head shops are a bit too short IMHO.
Designer straws, the official fad of 2019.
>Bans a straw
Well, that isn't Starbucks' fault.
If the cups _were_ made of bioplastic (or similar), I don't think your "approach" would be any better than it is. As far as I understand it, bioplastics need to be exposed to light/air in order to decompose. If they're sealed in a landfill, there's no benefit to be had -- until the landfill is breached.
As long as plastic disposables actually are disposed of we're in no danger of running out of landfill room. Plastic saved from omitting straws in negligible, this is greenwashing at its silliest. The energy and labor spent separating and recycling most plastics has worse environmental impact than the benefit from plastic saved and re-used.
Perhaps they reflect the relative power of the class that eats in restaurants that serve drinks in regular glasses vs those that gets their drinks in paper mugs with a straw?
...oh never mind a google search shows someone else is doing that :(
You can see this happen often from both the left and the right.
The mistake in this article is that the tops are recyclable plastic, and straws are not. While straws are 0.2-0.5g lighter, the plastic is worse.
> The new lids are recyclable, while the plastic straws the company currently uses are not.
> This is cold comfort given the fact that even most of the stuff that is put in recycling bins
> still winds up at the dump. The company did not address, nor did it dispute, that its transition
> to strawless lids would increase its overall plastic consumption.
Not expressing a view about whether those follow-up claims are correct, just noticing that this wasn't a mistake/oversight by the article.
It actually sounds like the article writer came up with a juicy "gotcha" headline and wrote most of the article, happened upon some information that undercut their premise, but decided to sloppily hand wave it away so they could publish anyway.
There are a couple of decent points in the article though they are buried at the end. Disabled people are going to be at even more of a disadvantage if straws are not available. And a real cleanup might depend more on helping other countries with their waste disposal systems than on anything we can do ourselves.
Plus they have additional problem of causing significant wildlife impact.
 - https://livegreen.recyclebank.com/because-you-asked-what-s-s...
 - https://earth911.com/home/food-beverage/recycling-mystery-pl...
There are many ideological rags (Reason is Libertarian, Jacobin is Socialist, etc.)
But the majority of major news sources are non-partisan and non-ideological to the point of giving undue weight to completely foolishness just because the foolishness benefits a certain party. They have systemic biases, owing to being staffed largely by elite educated urbanites with close proximity to power. That's different from being partisan. Where parties are concerned this bias tends to cut against them both in different ways.
Perhaps using more or less plastic is not the point. The point is whether the waste would be recyclable or not. The title seems like a click bait.
“By nature, the straw isn’t recyclable and the lid is, so we feel this decision is more sustainable and more socially responsible,” said Chris Milne, director of packaging sourcing for Starbucks.