Though I believe in legislation, part of me feels like the need to legislate and ban is driven by peoples inability to refuse the product. This is America. We were built on a free market economy, and the people’s power is consumer power. But I feel like we’ve become complacent. Like we can’t be bothered to use this power, at least not on a scale that is going to make a difference. And yet so many plastic products are completely unnecessary.
Honestly, do you know anybody that cannot drink out of a glass? 500 million straws are used every day in the United States. Straws are a super common form of marine litter – 439,571 were collected during the 2016 International Coastal Cleanup. Though there have been a handful of initiates to ban straws (Miami Beach, FL (2012), Berkeley, CA (in progress)), they have not gained nearly as much attention as bag bans.
Balloons are another aggravating form of plastic that ends up in the ocean, and are pretty much useless. As a component of marine litter, balloons have experienced very little attention, but that is starting to change. The first step has been banning the intentional release of balloons. Such bans exist in a handful of cities, and 5 states (CA, CT, FL, TN, VA). But recently Senator Jim Whelan came up against the Balloon Council when trying to pass just such a bill in New Jersey. (read more about Sen. Whelan’s efforts here).
I am an American, born and raised. I believe and appreciate the freedoms that I have come to take for granted. Legislation and bans take away our ability to make our own decisions… that is our ultimate freedom as American’s isn’t it? But I believe they are necessary, because time and time again, we have proven, en masse, that we can’t make the little decisions that will save our planet. It costs you nothing to refuse a straw, and it saves you money to not buy balloons. So why is it so hard to just say no? Why have we reached the point where legislation is even necessary?