When it is part of the culture that something is free, people resent being charged for it. The â€˜plastic bag taxâ€™ has achieved its aims: massively reducing the reliance on single-use plastic bags and raising money for local charitable causes. This is generally held to be a success story. Campaigners have now turned their attention to the single-use plastic drinking straw. Can a similar reduction be achieved here?
Most drinking straws are made of polypropylene which is recyclable but not as commonly recycled as other plastics. For instance â€“ most councils do not include this type of plastic in their doorstep collections. The straws are usually discarded â€“ winding up in landfill or, worse, polluting our natural environment. You may have seen the harrowing video of vets tugging at the beak of a leatherback turtle that was shared widely on social media platforms. The vets are helping the clearly distressed creature â€“ eventually they manage to remove a six-inch plastic drinking straw from its nostril.
One Proposed Solution
The idea is that a reduction in use of disposable plastic drinking straws can be achieved by passing a law mandating a small levy is charged for their use. If people resent paying the charge, they will change their drinking habits. They might carry their own reusable straw or choose drinks that donâ€™t require a straw at all.
Will it Work?
There seem to be a few obstacles facing plans to tax drinking straws that didnâ€™t apply in the case of plastic bags. For a start, there is not one big offender that can be targeted. For plastic bags, this was the supermarkets. The big supermarkets were overwhelmingly responsible for the distribution of plastic bags â€“ who is the equivalent for single-use straws? With bags, the alternative was better and it was already part of the culture. People already had reusable bags and they were a better solution for packing your shopping. Nobody carries a reusable straw with them.
A Middle Ground
Banning or taxing disposable straws does seem to be a step too far into the nanny state. Perhaps research into a more suitable material to manufacture them from is the answer. Biodegradable plastics are being developed that could replace the polypropylene that we use at the moment and solve the problem of pollution from single-use straws.
We take recycling seriously at WT Skips. Over 90% of the waste we collect is recycled â€“ some of it we do ourselves and other elements are sorted and passed onto third parties. If you would like to know more about what happens to waste that is thrown in a skip, check out the waste management pages of our website.