The Last Straw Campaigns
Island-Nations Echoing Each Other by Declaring War Against Plastic Straws
In 2019, large food and beverage vendors in Taiwan including McDonald’s will no longer be allowed to offer plastic straws for free. In 2025, all single-use tableware will be banned from by all industries. At the same time, prices for plastic bags will be raised by NTD$5 for each. The ultimate goal is to implement a blanket ban on single-use plastic products by 2030.
Island-Nations Echoing Each Other by Declaring War Against Plastic StrawsBy Annie/Observator on the Prime Meridian
Starting from next year, food and beverage establishments of a certain scale will no longer be allowed to offer free plastic straws—a new policy announced by officials on February 13th. The ultimate goal of this policy is to put a blanket ban on the use of single-use plastic bags, straws, and tableware by 2030 in the Pacific island-nation Taiwan.
Coincidentally, another island-nation in the North Atlantic Ocean, the United Kingdom, has started “The Last Straw Campaign” earlier this year, prompting awareness that the use of plastic straws can be “the last straw” for the environment and the endangered species.
The two campaigns that echo each other, initiated respectively in two island-nations from opposite sides of the earth, reflect how grave the threat plastic straws are posing to our planet.
‘Stop Sucking’: A Government Policy in Taiwan, A Newspaper Campaign in The UK
Let’s first have a look at Taiwan’s strawless policy. It is enforced by law, meaning that no matter how one disagrees, how one complains on online forums, one still has to obey.
According to the Environmental Protection Administration, in 2019, large food and beverage vendors including McDonald’s will be banned from offering plastic straws for “for-here” orders. In 2025, four major plastic products, including plastic straws, plastic bags, plastic cups, and single-use tableware (no matter for-here or to-go) will no longer be offered for free by all food and beverage industries. At the same time, prices for plastic bags will be raised by NTD$5 for each to whittle down demands. In 2030, a blanket ban on single-use plastic products will be implemented.
Unlike the government’s up-to-down authoritative approach in regulating the use of plastic in Taiwan, the strawless movement in the United Kingdom was a voluntary campaign initiated by London’s local newspaper Evening Standard. They have been promoting the merits of going straw-free, hoping to spark support.
“The Last Straw Campaign” calls for people to put down their plastic straws. “Let them be your last straw,” for it would be the last straw to break the back of the planet and wildlife.
With two billion plastic straws used every year, London has become the plastic straw capital of Europe, (which is logical as it is one of the largest cities in Europe). Though a straw weighs as a feather, it would take five centuries for one plastic straw to degrade, casting a heavy burden on the environment.
Up to today, a remarkable number of well-known restaurants and grand hotels in the UK have declared support for this campaign, replacing plastic with eco-friendly substitutes, and no longer offering plastic straws. “The Last Straw” soon became a down-to-up movement with Queen Elizabeth II’s active support. The Queen has recently announced that single-use plastic products including straws, cups and bottles will be phased out from all royal residences and businesses.
Image: Flicker@Old White Truck
Eco-friendly Calls Are Just ‘Groans Without Being Ill’?
Of course, no policy or movement in the name of going green can come hassle-free. In Taiwan, every time the government carries out a new policy, from regulations on sorting and recycling, to pricing plastic bags at retails stores, and finally to a blanket ban on plastic straws, for-or-against reactions trigger debates everywhere.
Some say that plastic straws should be “replaced,” rather than banned. Efforts should be devoted to the development of dissolvable, environmental-friendly substitutes, instead of pricing plastic straws, which is also said to be an act of benefiting the providers.
But really, if you can stop all the problems now from just a small change—drink with your mouth instead of a straw—why wait until a substitute gets available? (And it is available already.)
Some say: “Then how can I drink my bubble milk tea?”
Then cut down on drinks. It helps lose weight and saves money. Besides, stainless steel or glass straws have long been available in Taiwan. (And they’re heat-proof. They won’t burn your tongue. Trust your Made-in-Taiwans!) They often come in different sizes, meaning that you can definitely find one for your bubble milk tea.
If you think this “bubble milk tea” issue is an absurd example, have a look at some comments on The Last Straw Campaign in the UK.
Some say: “With so many urgent issues going on, why pick such a trivial matter to deal with first?” (I know you’re talking about Brexit.)
Others describe this movement as “pointless.”
Yet is it really just “pointless groans without being ill?” Look at the facts.
Plastic straws were ranked as the fifth-highest source of ocean pollution. Countless wild animals and sea creatures have fallen victim to these killers by eating them, as the shocking example of “The Sea Turtle with A 10cm Straw in Its Nostril” has shown us.
Anyone with normal empathy would recognize the importance of being eco-friendly upon being aware of how harmful our behavior can be to our planet.
Can’t Get Used to Going Straw-Free?—Just Get Over With It
As the Chinese saying goes, “It’s easier to go from zero to one than from one back to zero.” Some may say that getting rid of a habit can be tough. I would say it may be, but not as tough as you imagine.
I have started using steel straws a few years ago, primarily to stop the “pranks” my tea plays on my teeth. Yet as time went by I began to feel guilty every time I pick up a plastic straw, wondering whether I am in fact holding “the killing knife” of an animal.
As for those who refer to the previous example of the ban on offering free plastic bags, saying that “charging one bag for a dollar or two makes no difference,” that is exactly why the government would propose to raise the price of plastic bags. Doesn’t hurt to pay two dollars? Then let’s go with five.
Same goes to the UK. Starting from a couple of years ago, all supermarkets in the UK have begun to charge plastic bags, but only for five pence for each (about NTD$2). Lately, the British government seemed to have noticed that the policy did not go as effectively as expected to cut down on plastic waste, and hence they raised the price for plastic bags and started to give out reusable shopping bags. From my observation in London, now it’s normal to grab your own shopping bag before hitting the supermarket, where eco-friendly bags of various choices are also offered to encourage people to reuse them.
If you think going strawless is impossible, think about your life today. Aren’t you now used to sorting, recycling, buying your own bags to carry your purchases? Besides, steel straws are not only better for the environment, but also to your body. Think about the cold days you bought a cup of milk tea from a breakfast store, popped in a plastic straw, and sucked on the hot liquid that might be over 90℃. How many harmful substances do you think you have been sucking for these years?
In fact, going green is actually “going back from one to zero.” It may be tough, but not impossible. Once you start, you’ll get used to it, and it will sooner or later become part of your life.
Translated by Sharon Tseng.
Crossing features more than 200 (still increasing) Taiwanese new generation from over 110 cities around the globe. They have no fancy rhetoric and sophisticated knowledge, just genuine views and sincere narratives. They are simply our friends who happen to stay abroad, generously and naturally sharing their stories, experience and perspectives. See also CrossingNYC.