The War Against Straws

Recently the United States has gone to war; albeit the war is against plastic straws and not an actual country, but nonetheless it is a war. While the term war may seem a bit harsh, the amount of plastic waste harming our environment is even harsher. By 2050 there will be more plastic, (in terms of weight) than fish in the ocean (Petroff, 2018). If that prediction doesn’t alarm you then I don’t know what will. Due to this recent calculation, many countries are proposing bans, trying to discourage the use of plastic materials as much as possible. In Germany for example, bagging your groceries into a plastic bag will cost you an extra $0.20 per bag. The European Commission has proposed a legislation that will have all single use plastics banned by 2030 (Petroff, 2018). This legislation is a huge deal because it seemingly splits the responsibility between both the consumer and the business/corporation.
Other than threatening corporations with hefty environmental fines, our textbook discusses more positive ways to change people’s behaviors that would essentially benefit our environment. Firstly, we must choose a specific behavior to change that will improve the quality of the environment (CITE). Then we look at the factors that may influence said behavior (CITE). Third we come up with a plan, or design to change the specific behavior, and last, but not least we evaluate the results to see if it had an impact or not.
To change something as big as our plastic footprint, you must change the culture. Many people would be hesitant to give marketing companies their due credit, but this is why advertising is crucial and such an important piece of culture. Trying to appeal to someone’s inner sense of what’s right or wrong is not enough. Simply put, if you want to change the way someone thinks and behaves, you merely have to convince them that everybody else is doing it. Cue America’s favorite capitalist corporation: Starbucks. On July 9, 2018 America’s favorite coffee company announced that by 2020 they would eliminate all single-use plastic straws in more than 25,000 of their operated and licensed stores in North America (Viswanathan 2018). With such a prominent figure in American culture putting forth such a big move to improving our environment, it is only a matter of time before other popular food and retail companies follow suit. Normally I am one to support those that stand out from the pack, but in this case doing “what everybody else is doing” may not be such a bad thing after all.


Gruman, Jamie A., et al. Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. 2nd ed., SAGE, 2017.
Petroff, Alanna. “Plastic Ban: Europe Plans to Phase out Plastic Cutlery, Straws and More.” CNNMoney, Cable News Network, 28 May 2018,
Viswanathan, Radhika. “Why Starbucks, Disney, and Tom Brady Are All Shunning Plastic Straws.” Vox, Vox, 27 July 2018,


1 comment

  1. Benjamin Kendall Soltero De Martin

    I work in a privately owned restaurant that started to exclusively provide paper straws upon request about six months ago. We are a fairly small establishment, only 46 seats in total, but we are trying to do the best we can in serving our guests in a sustainable fashion. At first, people seemed lost without the plastic but they have quickly become accustomed to drinking from the rim. As of late, I have even started to overhear conversations about why we do it, and how it is “such a great idea.” It is reassuring to know that people are talking about their negative environmental behaviors, but why did their minds change?

    Was it something that they saw on television or on social media? Have they always felt this way about reducing their “footprint?” Or did forcing them to change their behavior by removing the plastic alter their attitudes? It was probably a combination of factors, but I do think that our intervention did play a large role along with the recent media coverage of plastic waste.

    You have given us some great news about Starbucks’ intention to move away from single-use plastic straws, and I hope that McDonalds, Subway, etc.. follow suit. These companies hold so much power and responsibility in shaping public perception about food and life. While I may not visit these establishments very often, millions of people do each day. If the small restaurant I work in can start to change minds, I can only imagine what these large establishments can do.

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