MAY 23, 2017 8:19 PM PDT

Putting a tax on plastic straws

In terms of environmental demons, plastic straws are even worse than plastic bags. They have a shelf life of about 20 minutes and unless you’re under 8 years old, they are really quite unnecessary. The UK has recently enacted a tax on plastic bags, which has had the intended effect, minimizing the number of single-use bags manufactured and used. That’s why a UK firm called Business Waste is set on putting a 5p (about 10 cents) tax on plastic straws, too.

Photo: BBC

Business Waste is urging manufacturers to go back to using paper straws, which at least are biodegradable after their one-time use. Yet of course, their ultimate mission is to discourage the use of straws at all. They describe plastic straws as "the ultimate in human wastefulness."

BusinessWaste's spokesman Mark Hall said: "Where recycling facilities exist, most pubs and bars don't bother separating out used straws to recycle because it's fiddly, and - frankly - they've been in the mouth of a stranger.

Perhaps because they are so difficult to recycle, countless plastic straws end up the ocean, and harm marine life. The following video shows the harm a plastic straw causes to a sea turtle:

But not everyone is gung-ho about the idea of a tax. Of course, those who are making profit off of plastic straws want to keep them in the picture. Charles Sellers from Inn Supplies, a firm which provides straws for caterers, said that paper straws are not a good alternative because they are “outdated” and “not so aesthetically pleasing." He also said: "Anyway, some of the paper straws aren't easy to recycle because they've got a polyethylene lining."

Nevertheless, if the law were to pass, and it’s looking hopeful, as a parliamentary petition closed recently with over 3,000 signatures, the money raised by the tax would go to charity BusinessWaste.co.uk says. Pubs, restaurants and the fast food industry would all be charged the same tax fee.

“We’d love to see the plastic drinking straw phased out completely within the next couple of years,” says Business Waste’s Mark Hall, “That’s an ambitious timescale, but one that is certainly achievable.”

Sources: BBC, Business Waste UK, RISI Technology Channels, Digital Journal

About the Author
BA Environmental Studies
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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