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Starbucks’ Straw Ban Is A Slap In The Face Of The Disabled That Won’t Help The Environment

Corporate Correctness: Starbucks won raves from environmentalists for its ban on straws. But while a strawless Starbucks won’t do anything to help the environment, it will discriminate against the disabled. Virtue signaling can be a tricky business.

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Under pressure from environmentalists, the coffee giant says that it will replace plastic straws with sippy-cup style lids at all of its stores by 2020. The company isn’t the first to do so, although it is the biggest. Hilton and Marriott hotels said they’re removing plastic straws at many of their hotels. American Airlines said it will get rid of plastic straws starting this November. Various cities have or plan to impose bans.

Why have straws become the bête noire of the green lobby and progressive CEOs? Because some straws end up in the ocean.

We’ll concede that polluting the oceans with plastic is bad. But environmentalists aggressively pushing this straw ban are using phony statistics while ignoring the real problem.

Almost every story on banning plastic straws cites the same statistic — that Americans use 500 million straws a day — which is based on a 9-year-old’s “research” project he did in 2011. (A more reliable estimate is 175 million.)

Whatever the number, straw bans in the U.S. will have virtually no impact on the world’s plastic pollution problem. Not only do straws represent a tiny portion of plastic waste that ends up in the ocean, but the U.S. itself accounts for less than 1% of the marine plastic in the world’s oceans, according to a 2015 study published in the journal Science. Europe’s coastal countries, by contrast, account for almost 3%.

Just five countries — China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka — are responsible for more than half of the plastic entering the ocean each year.

That’s because, unlike those other countries, the U.S. has better waste management systems in place — which keeps most of our trash in landfills or recycling centers, and out of the oceans. The Science study notes that just 2% of the waste in the U.S. is “mismanaged,” compared with 76% in China, 90% in North Korea, 88% in Vietnam, and 87% in India.

Another study, published in Environmental Science & Technology late last year, found that the Yangtze River alone dumps 1.5 million metric tons of plastic into the ocean a year — roughly 19% of the world’s annual total.

Given these realities, eliminating straws from a few hotels and Starbucks chains won’t even amount to, pardon the expression, a drop in the ocean.

What’s more, Starbucks will likely end up using more plastic after the ban than before.

According to Reason magazine’s Christian Britschgi, the replacement lid Starbucks is likely to use contains up to 15% more plastic by weight than the current lid-and-straw combo. Starbucks, he reports, did not address, nor did it dispute, that its transition to strawless lids would increase its overall plastic consumption.

Discriminating Against The Disabled

But while Starbucks’ ban will do nothing for the environment, it will bring harm to the disabled community, who have been speaking out more aggressively against straw bans.

“Plastic straws are an accessible way for people with certain disabilities to consume food and drinks, and it seems the blanket bans are not taking into account that they need straws and also that plastic straw replacements are not accessible to people.” Katherine Carroll, policy analyst at the Rochester, New York-based Center for Disability Rights, told Time magazine.

Karin Hitselberger, a disability advocate in Washington, D.C., writes in the Washington Post that she and other “people with a huge range of disabilities depend on plastic straws to access beverages and the very water they need to survive: cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis, among many others.”

“For so many people with disabilities,” she goes on, “something as mundane as a straw represents independence and freedom. And the conversation around their environmental impact, without consideration of who uses straws and why, demonstrates how people with disabilities are often forgotten.”

So, congratulations Starbucks and all the rest of the woke companies and cities now engaged in the battle against Big Straw. You might someday spare a sea turtle from getting a straw stuck in its nose.

But you’re doing so at the expense of some of the most vulnerable human beings in the country.

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U.S. CO2 Levels Drop Again — So Why Aren’t Green Groups Rejoicing?

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