Paper or Plastic? The Plastic Straw Ban Debate Reaches the Desert

Paper or Plastic? The Plastic Straw Ban Debate Reaches the Desert

Max Rodriguez

Paper or plastic? The grocery bags debate is long over, but the new debate is over plastic straws.

Seattle became the first major American city to outlaw plastic straws at all restaurants, and other cities and companies are slowly following their lead as a way to reduce plastic waste. For Starbucks introduced a new lid that allows customers to sip their iced beverages without the need for a straw, but a coffee shop in Palm Springs is taking a more radical approach.

Brittany Kinsella is a barista at Ernest Coffee in Palm Springs, and that coffee shop does not serve plastic straws with their drinks.

Kinsella said, “Obviously plastic straws as most people should know aren’t good for the environment, they end up in the ocean and end up in our streets everywhere.”

The City of Palm Springs has not set a law forward banning plastic straws, but through a report by the Waste Reduction Committee, it found Americans use over 500 million single-use straws every day.

Sharleen Esteves is visiting from San Francisco and she is on board with replacing plastic with paper straws, she said, “I think this is fine, it was momentary ‘ohh this is different’.”

But that is not the case for every customer who uses a paper straw.

Kinsella said, “For paper straws not so good, to be honest, some people like them, some people complain they got soggy.”

Maybe paper straws are not for everyone, but Ernest Coffee does offer another option less wasteful than plastic, they also carry straws made from corn starch that could pass as plastic.

Robert Matt said he does not tell the difference between cornstarch and plastic straws, he said, “This straw made of cornstarch I thought this was awesome because it is biodegradable and it is recyclable and I just think that’s an awesome experience.”

And sure plastic straw alternatives do cost more, a plastic straw runs for half a penny, while paper can cost four cents per straw.

Kinsella said, “Yes it is a little more expensive, no incredibly more expensive but it’s worth it, everyone loves them and they don’t hurt our environment.”

However, critics of the ban on straws point to those who may depend on one to sip a drink due to a disability.

The Assembly Bill 1884 was introduced earlier this year and it could ban single-use straws at restaurants unless a customer requests them, but the law would exclude fast food restaurants. The Assembly’s Natural Resources Committee passed the bill in April, and it could reach the governor’s desk by August.