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Letter to the editor: Annika Backer

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Why Not a Straw Tax?

To the Editor,

The world has a problem with plastic, which makes up 3% of trash recovered in oceans and results in deaths of 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine animals per year.

A major source of the problem is plastic straws. These straws are single use, they cannot be recycled in most places, they take 200 years to decompose, and they are the 11th most found ocean trash (plus the paper wrappers add to trash too). Americans are estimated to use a shocking 400-500 million plastic straws per day.

In July 2018, Seattle became the first city to ban plastic straws. Miami Beach, New York City, California and Hawaii are moving in the same direction. Starbucks committed to phase out plastic straws in over 28,000 locations, adding up to 1 billion straws per year. Disney, Alaska Airlines, and the Hyatt and Marriott hotel chains also plan to eliminate plastic straws.

Montgomery County should at least ban plastic straws and require any straws that are sold to be made of recycled materials. The limitation is that these straws tend to be single use as well, still generating waste.

To really make a difference for the environment, we ought to be more aggressive.

Therefore, I propose that the County implement a tax of 5 cents on each straw sold. The goal is to provide an incentive for people to invest in reusable straws. An eight-pack of stainless-steel straws retails for $8.99. Each reusable straw can reduce the damage to the environment from countless single-use plastic or recyclable straws and their packaging.

A model exists for this proposal to be successful. In 2012, Montgomery County introduced a 5 cent tax on plastic and paper bags sold by retailers. Customers now use 60% fewer bags and the number of bags removed from local streams has decreased by 72%.

We can achieve similar progress through a straw tax!

– Annika Backer is a resident of Rockville, Maryland and currently a freshman studying at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts

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Letter to the editor: Annika Backer