As more companies like Starbucks join a growing movement to ban plastic straws in America, more of us are being forced to reckon with a plastic straw-less future. And when asked about it for a new BuzzFeed News and market research firm Ipsos poll, the majority of us say it is not a future we want governments to regulate.
Americans are not ready to face the last straw
The online poll surveyed 2,000 adults nationwide around August and found that we are open to the idea of making individual choices around plastic straws. We are open to cutting back to help the environment, but we want there to be a plastic straw if we need one. More than half agreed that plastic straws are harmful to wildlife and 79% strongly support businesses using biodegradable straws, but the majority — 75% — also think businesses should offer plastic straws if requested.
The participants were open with individual businesses cutting back, but there was less support for governments to mandate this. Less than half — 48% — of respondents said they supported a local government ban. The survey suggests that we are not fully behind going straw-less. We want to be able to opt-in, and as disability advocates have pointed out, this is not just a want — it’s a need. Flexible straws were first developed to help people drink in hospitals, and now, they are used by people with mobility challenges.
“Reusable straws can be hard to maintain and sterilize, and may not be safe to use, while compostable products, which can dissolve in hot liquids, present a choking and allergen hazard,” writer s.e. smith wrote for Vox about how the ban would affect disabled people like her. “It’s always going to be a good idea for restaurants and coffee shops to keep plastic straws on hand for disabled people.”
The criticism from survey participants and disability advocates demonstrates that Americans are willing to cut back on plastic use — as long as business and government are willing to be flexible about it.