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From overflowing landfills to sea creatures dying, our dependency on using plastic is effecting our environment immensely. Recently, major names in the food industry, globally and in the UAE, have decided to implement a ban on the use of plastic straws. How effective will this step be? Gulf News readers debate.

Personal changes: Each individual needs to take action

From Ms Neola Castelino
Pupil based in Sharjah

Banning plastic straws definitely has an impact on overall plastic usage as a lot of people drink their beverages with plastic straws. These straws are single-use plastic and thus a lot of them are being manufactured and disposed on a daily basis. Banning plastic straws should be followed with an immediate effect and mainstream restaurants, cafes and supermarkets should stop offering them.

Comparing plastic straws to plastic cups, the difference of banning the latter would be more significant. But it’s easier to ban plastic straws as we can drink the liquid straight from the cup whereas, for plastic cups, there still needs to be a proper alternative.

The alternatives that I have heard of are metal, bamboo and glass straws. Glass straws could have a disadvantage of breaking as well as portability issues. Metal straws are not bendable. So, they need to be improved.

If plastic straws are banned, these manufacturing industries will go in the loss, however, the alternate industries such as bamboo, steel and glass straws might hike their prices.

As per the UAE vision 2021, the municipality has decided to divert 75 per cent of the landfill waste, which includes plastic waste. By banning plastic materials such as straws, a certain number of waste generated will surely be reduced. Thus by implementing these steps and raising awareness the rate of plastic waste will be reduced in the future.

I personally carry a jute bag while I go to weekly shopping along with my family and also I use a reusable bottle for my daily use.

Minorities: Some people aren’t able to use alternatives

From Ms Rida Shakil
Student of Business Management based in Sharjah.

Straws are just a tiny fraction of plastic consumption, so a ban on plastic straws will not really have much of an impact on the overall usage of the material. The same will apply regarding bans on the plastic cups.

Bans can play a role but it will not completely solve the plastic waste problem because sometimes it can be impractical. For example, it’s not easy to ban using plastic that goes into building cars, electronics, packaged food and modern medicine.

Also, what about those with disabilities? It will make life more complicated for them. For example people with muscle disorders cannot hold a glass to drink, so what about them? What about people who use wheelchairs? How can they drink without a straw and move around on the wheelchair at the same time? Yes straws are not a necessity for the majority but then who’s going to think about the minority?

Alternatives in the form of biodegradable products might be effective and bring about a positive impact on our environment but they are likely to cost more than plastic and increase the prices for the consumers. Moreover, bans on straws will cause unemployment since straw producing companies will run out of business.

Most of the plastic waste in the oceans comes from countries that don’t have good systems for putting trash in landfills. We must address the problems caused by plastic pollution by targeting its improper disposal than banning plastic itself.

Investment needed: Better substitutes need to be invented

From Mr Joudat Waleed
Junior Account Executive based in Dubai

I definitely feel that this is a stepping-stone towards building a community that cares for the environment and about the adverse effects of overusing plastic, in general. Also, I really do find it pointless to use straws for ‘sipping’ onto our drinks – it’s just a way to look and feel fancy.

If they must be used, we need good alternatives. These days, there are only two alternative to plastic straws - metal and paper straws - both of which are really not great substitutes. We need to invest time and capital to come up with better ones.

A few years ago, while scrolling through social media, I came across a horrific video of a sea turtle with a straw stuck in its nose and that’s when I decided that I should also proactively stop using plastic straws. It was truly sad to see an animal struggling to breathe. Let’s save lives by avoiding plastic straws.

Ban plastic: Our goal should be to ban the use of the material

From Ms Amna Abudyak
International relations student based in Sharjah

I think banning plastic is a good step to start the conversation around banning the use of plastic as a whole. But at the same time, when single-use cups and straws will be banned, they need to be replaced with steadier plastic cups and lids. This would also require using more plastic. I think it’s kind of counterproductive if such aspects are not thought through. So the idea of reducing plastic waste will take effort and solutions that are more sustainable in the long run rather than just banning the use of plastic straws.

Our goal needs to be to ban plastic in general. However, I do understand the convenience that using plastic at restaurants and cafes brings. So banning the material might be a little idealistic right now. Instead, let’s talk about recycling the plastic that is being used. The concept of recycling is not very common in some regions of the world and sufficient means of recycling plastic need to be introduced there, such as in the Middle East.

The notion of ‘going green’ needs to instilled in young minds. Also, we need to increase awareness around recycling, impose bans of using certain materials and taxes need to be implement. Other solutions such as, using thinner plastic should also be considered.

Businesses that claim to use sustainable methods and care about the environment are personally attractive to me. The sentiment around caring for the environment is increasing so it’s a good marketing tool for companies to use.

Gulf News asked: Should restaurants and cafes ban plastic straws?

Yes: 78%
No: 22%

Have your say

How impactful would such bans be on overall plastic consumption?
Would plastic straw substitutes be effective?
How would this step effect costs of beverages?

To share your views on this topic or join future debates, write to us at readers@gulfnews.com