NH considers plastic straw ban
California recently became the first state to ban single-use plastic straws in many food service businesses, unless a customer specifically requests one.
Rep. Judith Spang would like to see a similar policy put into place statewide in New Hampshire. Her bill, HB 558, would make single-use plastic straws available only upon request in New Hampshire restaurants, cafes, and other food-service businesses.
Plastic straw bans: a global trend
Stricter bans on plastic straw distribution have been passed recently in Seattle and Washington D.C. The entire nation of Taiwan is working to go straw-free by 2025. Meanwhile, many private companies have opted to stop distributing plastic straws with every drink, including Starbucks and Alaska Airlines.
Why ban plastic straws?
Supporters point to the impact of plastic waste on marine life. “There's a variety of other marine life that can swallow the straws,” said Jennifer Kennedy of New Hampshire’s Blue Ocean Institute. “They can get tangled up in other plastics, like balloon strings and strapping bands and things like that, so any plastic we can eliminate to that environment, which is already under lots of threats to begin with, is great.”
While acknowledging that plastic straws only represent a small portion of overall plastic waste, supporters of Spang’s bill argue the change would encourage people to think more about plastic pollution and how to reduce their overall plastic consumption.
Ban sparks opposition
Opponents of Spang’s bill cite statistics showing that drinking straws from the U.S. represent far less than 1% of the plastic waste that finds its way into oceans. They also note that alternatives to single-use plastic straws, such as compostable straws or metal ones, can have an even bigger impact on the environment in terms of carbon footprint.
There are also concerns about the impact of the ban on people with disabilities that require them to drink through a straw. Though Spang’s bill does specify that straws would be available upon request, it represents an additional hurdle for disabled people to wrangle and possibly additional stigma.
These critics note that the choice to forgo a plastic straw can be left to individual customers or private businesses that wish to set their own policies.
Should NH prohibit businesses such as restaurants and cafes from giving customers disposable plastic straws, unless a customer specifically requests one?
Discussion held on Citizens Count website and Facebook page February 17, 2019
No: 179 people were opposed to banning plastic straws unless a customer specifically requests one.
- “Let the restaurants decide for themselves and the customers can decide if they want to continue eating there. Government should have NO say!”
- “There are far bigger problems with other plastic items that we should be talking about… Waste of time as it [will] accomplish little to nothing except make people feel good about themselves.”
- “The state needs to stop putting mandates on businesses that makes them 'feel good' but does absolutely NOTHING to help the environment.”
Yes: 32 people were in favor of banning plastic straws unless a customers specifically requests one.
- “Yes. You don't need a straw and if you really, really think you do then be an adult and buy a reusable one and carry it with you.”
- “I say yes and bring back paper straws instead. I understand there are some that must drink from a straw, but for the majority of the population no straw or a paper straw.”
- “Yes, I already carry metal straws with me.”
Other: 26 people commented on related questions and issues instead.
- Consider alternatives: “How about we just make the straws of biodegradable material? Paper? Plant cellulose? I believe UNH had cups that were biodegradable being used on campus...”
- Restrict other common plastics: “Maybe they should ban k cups.”
- Other approaches: “Let's take the PLASTIC lid off the cup, and drink directly from the cup.”
*Editor selection of actual participant quotes.