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Companies And Regulators Move Toward Full Ban On Plastic Straws To Help Alleviate Pileup

May 31, 2018
Originally published on June 1, 2018 8:52 am
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

To another story now. Today Bon Appetit, a large food service company, announced it is banning plastic straws in all 1,000 of its cafes across the U.S. That would include locations like AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. This is the latest salvo in a growing war against plastic straws.

And here to tell us more about that is NPR food editor Maria Godoy. Hey, Maria.

MARIA GODOY, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.

KELLY: So why this ban? Why straws?

GODOY: So there's something like 270,000 metric tons of plastic in our oceans. And straws are actually a pretty big chunk of that, so they're kind of an obvious choice. Most of us don't really need straws. We tend to use them because they're there.

KELLY: Although I'm thinking I just ate my salad for lunch today with a plastic fork, which probably isn't very good for the environment either. Why are straws being singled out for this ban?

GODOY: Well, environmentalists have actually been telling us that plastic straws are taking a big toll for years. But there was this video that went viral in 2015, and it's pretty hard to watch. It shows a sea turtle with a straw stuck up its nose and researchers trying to remove it. Let's listen to a clip.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: I don't want to pull it if it's, like, attached to her brain stem.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Yeah, that's what - exactly what I think. So it's a freaking straw up her freaking nostril.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: That's plastic.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: How could that have possibly got lodged so firmly in a nostril?

KELLY: Oh, poor turtle.

GODOY: It's pretty heartbreaking. And you know, like, one of the reasons it's lodged up there is because of the shape of the straw. It let it go all the way back in its nostril. This was just, like, a really, really graphic way of bringing home the fact that plastics and plastic straws are taking a huge toll on sea life and really on the planet.

KELLY: All right, we're talking to you about this today because of this move by Bon Appetit, the food service company. Are other companies, other cities, other governments following suit in the campaign against straws?

GODOY: Yeah, it's actually really heating up. In just the last week, a New York City councilman introduced a bill to ban plastics from the city's restaurants. Cities like Malibu and Miami have banned plastic straws. There's a couple of colleges - have actually banned them. And even Alaska Airlines said this month that it's going to eliminate straws and stirrers on all of its flights.

KELLY: I've started noticing at restaurants when I'm eating out that there are straw dispensers, and they're empty, and there's a sign on them saying, we're not offering these. They're only on request now.

GODOY: Right, exactly. And that's a bigger movement, too, because the idea that if you have to ask for them, you have to think about it. And they want you to think about the toll that that request takes.

KELLY: What about outside the U.S.? There are moves underway in other parts of the world?

GODOY: Yeah, actually, a lot is happening in Europe. The European Commission has this big proposal that would target not just straws but other plastics like utensils and plates - basically, like, the top 10 commonly found plastics on beaches.

KELLY: So my salad fork is about to be out.

GODOY: Exactly. And what's interesting about this proposal is it has teeth. Some of the companies that make these disposable products would be required to pay for cleanup and waste management and for awareness campaigns because the goal is to make everyone think more about the toll that our reliance on disposables is taking on the planet.

KELLY: NPR's Maria Godoy - thanks so much, Maria.

GODOY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.