Paper straws work just fine: Trump displays prideful ignorance of how humans affect our world

Paper straws work just fine: Trump displays prideful ignorance of how humans affect our world
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Plastic straws are a symbol. For those concerned about the ocean plastic pollution crisis, plastic straws are something that can easily be eliminated from our waste stream, like most throwaway plastic packaging. For President TrumpDonald John TrumpMarine unit in Florida reportedly pushing to hold annual ball at Trump property Giuliani clashes with CNN's Cuomo, calls him a 'sellout' and the 'enemy' Giuliani says 'of course' he asked Ukraine to look into Biden seconds after denying it MORE and his supporters, however, they’re a way to stick it to environmentalists and liberals.

That’s why the Trump reelection campaign has been selling Trump-branded plastic straws and promoting them online with the pitch “Liberal paper straws don’t work. STAND WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP and buy your pack of recyclable straws today.”

Setting aside the facts that paper straws work just fine and that Trump’s “laser engraved” plastic straws aren’t really recyclable, there’s a deeper problem here. This isn’t about straws, it’s about whether Americans are willing to evolve into better stewards of the natural world — or instead treat that very idea with contempt.

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Similar to Trump’s speech on the environment a couple weeks earlier, where he falsely claimed credit for the “cleanest air” and most “crystal clear” water in the world (while ignoring climate change), there’s a prideful ignorance about how humans are affecting our world.  

Clearly, adding a disposable plastic straw to every beverage sold in this country was wasteful and mostly unnecessary. They all enter the stream of waste that fills our oceans, landscapes and landfills with plastic, often without ever being used or desired. 

Straws get ingested by marine life and add to the plastic accumulating in our oceans that’s expected to outweigh all the fish in the sea by 2050. So, cities and states around the country started passing laws banning their automatic dispersal, usually requiring diners to ask for them instead.

Fox News and other right-wing voices responded furiously, falsely accusing the cities of threatening to jail waiters (they didn’t) and undermining American values. Conservatives posted their plastic straw orders on social media and boasted about wantonly using them in response to articles about ocean plastic pollution.

Straws became a symbol of defiance and disdain. So, the Trump campaign is selling packs of 10 “Trump straws” for $15 and crowing about it on Twitter. Trump campaign manager Brad Pascale tweeted last week, “Making Straws Great Again,”

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Plastic straw bans obviously won’t by themselves solve the plastic pollution crisis. Still, it’s a step in the right direction, and making diners ask for them just doesn’t seem like a big deal.

But I’m far more concerned about the industry’s effort to steeply increase plastic production using our oversupply of fracked natural gas, all under pollution regulations that haven’t been updated since Reagan was president. This reckless expansion will dramatically increase the mountain of plastic packaging we have to deal with.

As my colleague wrote earlier this year, “Dozens of U.S. cities made 2018 the year of the plastic straw ban. But if we really want to reduce the plastic pollution rapidly amassing in our oceans, 2019 must be the year we challenge the fossil fuel industry’s plan to aggressively expand plastic production.”

That’s exactly what we and more than 270 other organizations did this week when we filed a legal petition demanding the EPA update its water pollution rules to ban the release of plastic pellets and the most toxic chemicals from petrochemical plants that make plastic.

Trump and his people can keep sucking plastic straws and pretend that’s some kind of rebellion instead of just willful wastefulness. Or Trump and his EPA appointees can act on a petition that really will help prevent pollution of our rivers, bays and oceans. 

Miyoko Sakashita is director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s oceans program.