Editorial: While the war on plastic straws continues, Minnesota needs to work on banning single-use plastics

The State and University of Minnesota should double down efforts on regulating and banning single-use plastics, following other U.S. cities.

Daily Editorial Board

Minneapolis tends to be a consumer-friendly city. Compared to its large urban counterparts, the city ranks as the most bikeable, the second healthiest and the fourth most vegan-friendly in the nation. Not only does the city care for the health and well-being of its residents, but being environmentally friendly should be a top priority for such a progressive metropolitan area.

However, when it comes to implementing policies on single-use plastic, Minneapolis sure has its work cut out for itself.

Around two years ago, an ordinance banning plastic bags was passed in Minneapolis but not put into effect due to a budget bill signed by Gov. Mark Dayton that prohibits cities from banning any type of bag. Adding to the questionable disagreement, one year ago the City Council declined to vote on an ordinance implementing a 5 cent plastic bag fee.

Though city officials seem to be against implementing environmental policies, Andrea Siegel, leader of No Straws of Minneapolis, believes that approaching businesses with the damaging facts about straws will create change. 

While utilizing a single plastic straw may not seem detrimental to the environment, it’s been estimated that 500 million straws are used and then thrown away each day. This makes straws the 7th largest category of waste, following other plastic items such as water bottles, plastic bags and plastic utensils.

The movement to ban plastic straws has been rapidly gaining attention, and large cities such as Seattle and Miami have already taken action. Local Minneapolis businesses are already on board with the movement, with many implementing their own policies. While consumers at First Avenue can request a straw with their beverage, drinks are no longer automatically served with them. HopCat, a Minneapolis bar, now serves compostable straws, which are designed to break down quickly and turn into soil mere months later.

If Minneapolis were to implement a plastic straw ban across the city, there would be a significant impact on the University of Minnesota campus. For example, the University has 12 coffee shops spanning throughout campus, including three Starbucks.

While Starbucks has vowed to remove all plastic straw use from their stores by 2020, the shops are still using plastic straws in the meantime, creating an immense amount of irreparable environmental damage. To put the amount of harm in perspective, 500 million straws is enough to completely fill over 125 school buses every day, which is nearly 47,000 buses per year. Among these startling statistics is the fact that each American is estimated to use an average of 1.6 straws every day.

While it’s important to realize that not all straws can be banned, as near perfect conformity presents difficulties for some people with disabilities who may need to use straws, Minneapolis and local businesses should consider using alternatives, such as paper or compostable straws.

The City should quickly follow the footsteps of its counterparts and begin with banning the use of plastic straws. Furthermore, Minneapolis and other cities need to expand their focus to the banning of all single-use plastic items.