DEBATE: Is the proposed ban on plastic drinking straws a good idea?

A Chinese postal worker leaves with his bike after
Brits alone throw away 8.5bn plastic straws a year (Source: Getty)

Is the proposed ban on plastic drinking straws a good idea?

Helen McGeough, senior consultant at PCI Wood Mackenzie, says YES.

Michael Gove has called plastic waste a global emergency – Brits alone throw away 8.5bn plastic straws a year.

There is a need to illustrate symbolism among single-use plastics, where functionality may be regarded as questionable and, at times, unnecessary. This contrasts with, for example, food packaging, which has the advantage of directly extending the shelf-life of various foods.

Plastic straws are typically used for off-the-shelf drinks, often aimed at a younger demographic. Banning their use could facilitate the implementation of a comprehensive and nationwide education programme aimed at young people, regarding the responsible use and disposal of plastics.

As we migrate to a world where the appropriate plastic provides the optimum functionality in a particular end use, this level of education will become increasingly important.

The ban is a low-level demonstration of what legislators could take even further – unless consumers, producers, and providers admit their own responsibility for products placed in the market.

Read more: Straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds could be all banned under new plans

Matt Kilcoyne, head of communications at the Adam Smith Institute, says NO.

Michael Gove is sucking up to those following the current anti-plastics fad by banning straws – he’s winning plaudits, but we shouldn’t confuse good politics with good policy.

We all agree that less plastic in our oceans is a good thing.

The question is: at what cost? This ban will restrict consumer choice and utility for negligible benefit.

The UK contributes just 0.2 per cent of global maritime waste, despite our GDP being 3.3 per cent of the world’s total. So where is the waste coming from?

Around 86 per cent of the plastic running through the world’s rivers was found in Asia. The non-profit Ocean Conservancy found that between them China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam are spewing out as much as 60 percent of the plastic waste that so incensed viewers of Blue Planet.

We could crowbar the price system to impose the true cost we create onto consumers. We could have cash transfers to these poorer countries to deal with the waste they create. But let’s not hand down bans from on-high.

Read more: DEBATE: Will the deposit return scheme cut down plastic use?

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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