Environmentalists have proposed that local governments ban plastic straws in order to spare the environment, but an unintended consequence might be leading to even worse results.
As Scott Duke Kominers of Bloomberg explains, customers like the metal straws that replaced the banned plastic straws so much that they are stealing them from restaurants, believing it to be a minor grievance against the business.
But that means that metal straws may be doing more harm to the environment than their plastic counterparts.
…this means the metal straws — which presumably required mining, plus large amounts of energy to convert into sheet metal and then fashion it into a cylindrical tube — don’t provide the intended environmental benefit.
Kominers points out that there are no studies yet on the efficacy of banning plastic straws, but he points to similar studies on the lack of efficacy of banning plastic bags.
Reusable plastic bags take much more energy to produce than single use plastic bags because they’re thicker. Studies show that in order to make up the difference, each reusable plastic bag has to be used about 40 times to make up the difference. But given that many end up being stuffed into closets or used as trash liners, this is very unlikely.
Metal straws are also many times more expensive for restaurants to replace, costing between $1 and $3 each. That means they might really be hurting restaurant businesses.
Finally, one last reason to bring back plastic straws is that people are much less likely to fall, get impaled through the brain with a plastic straw, and die a day later.
Here’s a video on whether plastic bans work:
Stossel: Plastic Straw Myths