Straw Boy Argument: It’s Not 500 Million A Day

What Lie Will Be The Last Straw?

Straw TruthThis boy with the “Great” shirt is my son, Yuri. He’s enjoying a blueberry milkshake complete with a bright red straw. It was a few years ago when we were going around Hood River’s Fruit Loop, back when I still obeyed the food pyramid and consumed sugar for energy.

Yuri tends to tell the truth, but he just turned nine. No matter how heartfelt, his truth may not be mine.

Given how my understanding of diet has evolved over the past few years and shifted successfully from sugar burning to fat burning, I appreciate how tricky lies accepted in mass can be.

Almost nine years ago another nine year old boy talked to some straw manufacturers to estimate that the US uses 500 million straws a day. Updates declare that the number is much higher, but not specifically how much more so.

Well over 500 million? I call bullshit.

I use maybe ten straws a year, and the vast majority of people around me don’t use more than one straw a day. It’s a struggle to believe that the three hundred some million of us use more than a tenth of the campaigned number. Even 50 million per day sounds like a lie generated to hammer public opinion.

I asked around. One coworker guessed four million straws. Another guessed a billion. Our circles influence our perspective. I don’t drink coffee or eat fast food. Of course 500 million sounds crazy to me.

I did a little searching, and the actual number appears to be 170-175 million, as stated by Technomic Inc. This still seems too high, but this number is at least in my outer realm of believability.

A ban may be a good, but without clear truth, it is undermined.

If Yuri had been that straw boy, I would have checked his work and not released a gross exaggeration.

His lesson: the ends do not justify the means.

Now that straw boy is a young straw man. I respect Milo Cress. He is attempting good work, but it sits on a faulty foundation. It promotes bad arguments instead of discussions. If this straw campaign lowered their numbers to 200 million and referenced Technomic or some similar source, they could redeem trust and rebuild dialogue.

Own up to the mistake, and it can be forgiven.

My city, Portland, is moving towards a ban

Straw truth or fiction
Sparkling Tea w/ Erica at her Tea Bar

Banning “single-use non-recyclable plastics, including plastic straws” sounds like a good idea, especially without the 500 million straw “fact” distracting from stronger truths.

Straws screw up recycling?

They are a small percentage by volume, but may be a significant percentage of the annoyance.

I wonder if focusing on straws will bring attention to the recycling business’s bigger problems, or will we collectively pat ourselves on the back and move on.

Portland banned plastic bags around the same time Milo Cress was introducing the world to America’s “500 million” plastic straws a day use. I remember I wasn’t satisfied with the discussion about bags then, and it still isn’t clear if paper bags are preferable to plastic ones.

Straws hurt animals.

They get breathed in and are a great villain easily capitalized on to draw attention to other one use, non-recyclable plastics.

Reduce Reuse RecycleStarbucks is switching from straws to special recyclable lids. I’m not sure about this outcome. The lids may use more plastic, and I expect many will end up in landfills on top of their straws of old.

Lids may not get sucked into a sea turtle’s nose, but what else will they effect when floating around the Pacific?

I tell my son to recycle, but I emphasize reduce and reuse.

LED lights are wonderful, but they work so well people leave lights on more, reducing the benefit and increasing light pollution.

Advance behavior along with technology or die off conveniently.

Portland is a service industry mecca. I hope the conversation doesn’t taper off with the straw as our bright lights stay on later and later.

I also hope fines aren’t a $1,000 for offering a straw as has been considered in California.

Exaggerating A Truth Makes It A Lie

The truth dependsShow my son facts and see what he decides.

He may only be nine, but like the rest of us he can use more than 10% of his brain.

The myth persists that humans only use ten percent of our brain, and the myth persists that Americans use more than half a billion plastic straws a day.

I was wrong about the food pyramid. My mother and Bernie Sanders were wrong about the wage gap. Those college kids were wrong about pissing in the shower (If you pee, you stay in longer and others will want to clean). Einstein was wrong about brain use, and Milo Cress is wrong about straw use.

This doesn’t mean we should keep a death grip on a straw, but we can enter into a conversation with agreed upon facts. Close to two-hundred million straws a day is enough that Milo could convince me to vote against straws in Portland, but only after I have a chance to consider as an informed voter.

Credibility matters:

PETA, the NRA, the Green Party, they have credibility problems I wish they didn’t have.

My son can understand factory farming is bad, sustainability is good, and hunting can be great for population control and conservation.

Democracy fails because there is too much to know. We need to be able to trust representatives.

You’re not offended. You’re mistaken. Facts can’t offend.

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