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Howard County can cut back on plastic straws | READER COMMENTARY

This May 23, 2018 file photo shows plastic drinking straws in New York. A ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds came into force in England on Thursday Oct. 1, 2020, after a six-month delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Barbara Woike, File)
This May 23, 2018 file photo shows plastic drinking straws in New York. A ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds came into force in England on Thursday Oct. 1, 2020, after a six-month delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Barbara Woike, File) (Barbara Woike/AP)

Thankfully, the Howard County Council has introduced The Plastics Reduction Act. The bill will ban single use plastic straws and stirrers. All other straws, stirrers, plastic utensils and condiment packets would be available upon request. The vote will take place on March 1.

Some people are already suggesting to delay enactment of the bill since this is not the “time” for businesses to make a change.

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This is exactly the time to make the change.

Studies show, for example, if a restaurant is serving 300 drinks a day, by skipping the straw, it would eliminate about 60 pounds of plastic and save $725 per year, even while taking into account the 10% of customers who would request a straw.

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Another study found that companies that offer straws on demand reduce straw consumption by 400%, diminishing the increased cost of switching to paper straws and allowing restaurants to save money while saving the planet. A worst-case scenario — the switch would be cost neutral.

If cost is the concern, here is the “cost” of not addressing the plastic pollution crisis:

We are producing over 300 million tons of plastic every year, 50% of which is for single-use purposes — utilized for just a few moments, but on the planet for at least several hundred years. Plastic flow into ocean is expected to triple by 2040. Global emissions linked to plastic — just under 900 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually — could by 2030 reach 1.3 billion tons, as much as almost 300 coal-fired power plants. The rate of plastics production growth has increased 620% since 1975.

It is also worth mentioning we are eating, breathing and drinking plastic. Plastic is maiming and killing marine life. Plastic is in our rain, in our snow and in our bodies.

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I would hope this fact would give us pause: Plastic has been found in the placentas of unborn babies.

We all want to put this pandemic behind us. But as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, let us not exacerbate another crisis because we did not have the foresight to see the seriousness of the plastic pollution pandemic.

Pat Hersey, Columbia

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