The last straw—the beginning of an eco-revolution?

November 2, 2018

Over the summer several major U.S.-based companies announced plans to eliminate single-use plastic straws at their venues. The popularity of this eco-friendly movement motivated California to pass a statewide ban of plastic straws in restaurants. In line with these recent accomplishments, Ford School professor Kaitlin Raimi says “It’s not a bad thing for people to push for plastic straw bans.”

In Will Jarvis’ October 25, 2018 Vox magazine article "Straws are just one drop in a very polluted ocean," he details how the push to ban straws has lessened the public’s apathy for the buildup of plastic in landfills and oceans. Jarvis highlights some shocking statistics pertaining to the amount of single-use plastic discarded every year: “Five-hundred billion plastic cups are used worldwide each year, [and] 1 trillion single-use plastic bags.” While Jarvis himself purchased reusable straws, he could not escape the plastic packaging the product came in, despite his best efforts.

For this very reason, Professor Raimi believes that “Tackling plastic pollution will require institutional change as well.” Whether or not Congress drafts legislation similar to the Californian statute, the steady removal of single-use plastic marks a simple way for Americans to stymie the seemingly endless flow of plastic garbage into our environment.

A social psychologist and professor of public policy at the Ford School, Kaitlin Raimi focuses on how social motivations have the ability to aid or hinder sustainable behavior.