Americans throw away millions of plastic straws every day. Many of them end up in the oceans, where they can be very harmful to marine animals. In 2015, a video showing a turtle with a straw stuck up its nose went viral, prompting renewed calls for cutting back on disposable plastic—especially straws.
Since then, many restaurants nationwide have responded by giving out straws only when they’re requested. Others have stopped offering them altogether. Cities such as Seattle, Washington, and Malibu, California, recently imposed bans on plastic straws. New York City is considering doing the same.
People who support such bans point to the fact that plastic straws are a common form of plastic litter found on beaches—and in the oceans. Banning plastic straws, they say, would help reduce the amount of plastic threatening marine life.
Opponents of such bans, however, say they would do little to solve the much bigger problem of plastic waste that’s improperly disposed of. Instead of banning plastic straws altogether, they say, people should be encouraged to properly recycle them.
Should plastic straws be banned? Two experts—an environmentalist and a representative of the plastics industry—weigh in.