Answer Desk

What is the reasoning behind the push to ban plastic straws?

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) - Major cities and corporations are discussing a ban on single-use plastic straws. But many people are asking the question why?

Straws might seem small, but in the United States, researchers estimate that we use 500 million straws every single day. Now companies like Starbucks and McDonald's have plans to phase them out.

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According to Duke Professor Lee Ferguson, plastic from straws can pose serious concerns. Straws can take up to 200 years to decompose. Although they can be recycled, most curbside programs don't accept them. Ferguson said one of the main concerns is how the plastic impacts marine life and birds.

"This can have a number of effects. It can cause distress in their digestive system. It can even lead to death, in some cases it can lead to entanglement," he said.

According to researchers, 71-percent of seabirds and 30-percent of turtles have been found with plastic in their stomachs. When they ingest plastic, marine life has a 50-percent mortality rate.

Here in the U.S., Starbucks plans to phase out plastic straws by 2020. In Raleigh, North Carolina State University has limited single-use straws on campus and is now using compostable straws in the student union.


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