Monday, July 23, 2018

No Plastic Straws at Marquette: More Dumb Virtue Signalling

A really terse announcement by Marquette: “Marquette Dining Services retail locations (e.g., Marquette Place, Brew cafes) are phasing out plastic straws and transitioning to eco-friendly paper straws.”

The announcement seems to say nothing about the three traditional dorm dining halls on campus.

This, of course, is yet another example of virtue signalling that just inconveniences people and does nothing significant for the environment.

What is, supposedly, the environmental problem with plastic straws? NBC is typical when it explains that:
Activists are pressuring businesses to ditch plastic straws because they can end up in the ocean and hurt marine life.
And just how will plastic straws at Marquette end up in the ocean and hurt marine life?

Do Marquette students, when their finish their soda, run down to Lake Michigan and throw the straw in? Really?

Straws go in the trash, and then go into landfills. Yes, environmentalists hate landfills, but they are in fact pretty benign, and certainly no threat to marine life.

Then what is the basis of the “marine life” claim? Christian Britschgi of Reason explains:
Pictures of turtles with straws up their noses are certainly jarring. However most plastic, whatever form it enters the ocean as, will eventually be broken up into much smaller pieces known as micro-plastics. It is these micro-plastics that form those giant ocean garbage patches, pile up on the ocean floor, and leech into the stomachs and flesh of sea creatures.

Reducing the amount of micro-plastics in the ocean thus requires cutting down on the aggregate weight of plastics entering the ocean each year. It cannot be stressed enough that straws, by weight, are a tiny portion of this plastic.

At most, straws account for about 2,000 tons of the 9 million tons of plastic that are estimated to enter the ocean each year . . . —.02 percent of all plastic waste.
This figure is derived from data here:
. . . a ban may be a bit of a straw man in the discussions about plastics pollution. Straws make up about 4 percent of the plastic trash by piece, but far less by weight.

Straws on average weigh so little—about one sixty-seventh of an ounce or .42 grams—that all those billions of straws add up to only about 2,000 tons of the nearly 9 million tons of plastic waste that yearly hits the waters.
Back to Britschgi:
The pollution problem posed by straws looks even smaller when considering that the United States is responsible for about one percent of plastic waste entering the oceans, with straws being a smaller percentage still.

As countless experts have stressed, truly addressing the problem of marine plastic pollution will require going after the source of this pollution, namely all the uncollected litter from poorer coastal countries that lack developed waste management systems.
A scholarly treatment in the journal Science lists the twenty countries that put the most waste plastic in the oceans. The United States barely makes the list, putting an estimated 0.04–0.11 million metric tons of plastic per year. This is all plastics, not just straws. As we have seen, straws are a tiny proportion.  And this compares to 1.32–3.53 million metric tons from China.

The U.S. only makes the list by being large and rich, with a lot of people consuming all sorts of things. All the other countries on the list are poorer countries, with a much higher level of mismanaged waste.

Which raises the question: what happens when a Marquette student puts a plastic straw in the trash? Does the firm that handles Marquette’s solid waste take it and dump it into Lake Michigan? Or perhaps into the Wisconsin River? If they do, that’s a vastly bigger problem than plastic straws. If they don’t, the ban on plastic straws will have zero effect on plastic in the oceans.

Britschgi concludes:
Straw banners have proven stubbornly resistant to this logic. Instead, they have chosen to rely on either debunked statistics (such as the claim that Americans use 500 million straws a day, which was the product of a 9-year-old’s research) or totally unproven notions (like the theory that straws are a “gateway plastic”) in order to justify petty prohibitions on innocuous straws. And they have been helped along by an uncritical media.
The simple fact about environmentalists is that they are busy-bodies, wanting to control people’s behavior. They are also adverse to any sort of sophisticated analysis, latching onto simple-minded crusades (anti-fracking, anti-nuclear, anti-Keystone pipeline).

A university ought not pander to such people, but rather insist that environmental issues be discussed and analyzed. But such is anathema to social justice warriors, who might find that some of their crusades are a bad idea, or that improving the environment might require them to make sacrifices they don’t want to make.

In a university intent on pandering to every fad of the social justice warriors, they will never be challenged. Which means they will never be educated.

[Update 7/25/2018]

The dining manager at Cobeen Hall informs us that the dining hall there has never had straws, so far as he can remember. He is fairly certain that other dorm dining halls have not had straws either.

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19 Comments:

Blogger Golden Eagles said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:58 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

@ Golden Eagles: Did you even read the post? Zero straws from Marquette are making it into the waterways, unless some student takes a soda down to the lakefront and throws the straw in. Do you know any who do that?

As for "saving money:" why not ban napkins too. Or utensils, since people can eat with their hands. Ever been to a Ethiopian restaurant?

It's just a matter of convenience. If you don't particularly want a straw, don't take one.

As for "snowflakes:" you know perfectly well what sort of students want to shut up and stifle speech of which the disapprove.

What do you think of this:

http://mu-warrior.blogspot.com/2016/10/anti-abortion-display-defaced-at.html

Were these students snowflakes? Or are you OK with what they did?

12:00 AM  
Blogger Golden Eagles said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:40 AM  
Blogger Golden Eagles said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:41 AM  
Blogger Golden Eagles said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:59 AM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

@ Golden Eagles: plastic straws put in landfills are not bad for the environment.

8:12 PM  
Blogger Golden Eagles said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:45 AM  
Blogger Golden Eagles said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:01 AM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

We’ll have to see if your army of tattletale snowflake wingnuts can handle the paper straws.

Do you understand that comments like this make you look very hostile and intolerant?

Paper straws tend to collapse before you are finished with the drink.

5:39 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

Plastic straws in landfills have no redeeming qualities except to reinforce our out of sight out of mind thinking just like everything else we throw in landfills that can’t be recycled.

So you don't like landfills? Why? Because it reinforces a "mentality" that you don't like?

So this is really about imposing an environmentalist mentality on people?

I don't think you can specify anything really wrong with straws in landfills. You just consider it sinful.

It is interesting how wingnuts like yourself salivate over these trivial matters. There are more important things in life to worry about.

If you use "wingnuts" in any further comment, I will reject it.

It shows you to be a hostile and intolerant person.

As for "salivate over trivial matters:" that's what the environmentalists are doing. They are moralists who want to dictate people's lifestyles, and make then conform to an environmentalist ethic even when no harm to the environment is at issue.

5:45 PM  
Blogger Golden Eagles said...

Ok - I will refrain from using the “ w” word. It was my response to you using “leftist”

500 million plastic straws are used daily. Looks like costal cities and states are banning plastic straws more readily than inland states and cities.

Manufacturers are stepping up to the plate in providing straws that will last a few hours.
https://www.aardvarkstraws.com/

Regarding landfills - looking forward I suspect we will run out of acreage at some point to dump our garbage. Then what? Anything we can do to avoid dumping into landfills is worthwhile.

For now - you too can join the stop sucking movement.
https://www.strawlessocean.org/

Regarding “salivating over trivial matters” - honestly I never thought about the plastic straw ban until you brought it up in your blog. It really doesn't bother me like it does you and your rather sensitive “conservative” friends.

Regarding the “moralists” label you hang on environmentals - there is something moral about helping our environment. Consider that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean.



https://youtu.be/4hzu4u-bl-g

https://youtu.be/kCwtlzABUpY





6:57 AM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

In the first place, the notion we are running out of landfill space is based entirely on the notion that no new landfills will be built. You could check this out from the (liberal) journal SLATE:

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/the_green_lantern/2011/02/go_west_garbage_can.html


In landfill-strapped states, the problem is more political than geological or geographical. Landfill operators can build a new site from nearly any piece of land (apart from sensitive ecological areas) in six to eight years. But many voters and bureaucrats in the Northeast, for example, would rather ship their trash across state lines than have a landfill near their homes.



So note how it works: liberal environmentalists cry "we are running out of landfill space!," but we are only "running out" because they won't allow new landfills.

This reminds me of the old story about the guy on trial for murder. He was charged with killing his mother and father, and he was clearly guilty. He threw himself on the mercy of the court, and begged for mercy on the grounds that he was an orphan!

11:28 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

@ Golden Eagles: As for conservatives being "sensitive" about infringements on their liberty, you would be thoroughly "sensitive" if conservatives tried to impose their moral values on you.

As for "moral:" there is moral and there is "moralist." It's one thing to promote things that actually make the environment better. It's another to promote things that just make moralists feel better. Environmentalists latch onto crusades that make them feel better, like opposing fracking, or nuclear power, or the Keystone Pipeline. In each of these cases, their policies make the environment worse.

Or they latch onto something that really doesn't matter, simply for its *symbolism.* You should not try to coerce people over mere symbolism.

11:34 PM  
Blogger Golden Eagles said...

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8:51 AM  
Blogger Golden Eagles said...


Given that projects like this that involve just clean fill - how do you think people will react to a dump operating 24/7?

My paradise has turned into my early grave': Trucks in bucolic Richfield stir discord
Bruce VielmettiUpdated 8:54 a.m. CT Aug. 3, 2018

“People who live around that area feel the rug got pulled out from under them because of this loophole in the law," he said, referring to the Court of Appeals decision. The big dump trucks "are parading past their homes on substandard roads," Healy said. "Unfortunately, their lives are consumed by it."

https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/local/2018/08/03/trucks-and-discord-rumble-scenic-pit-richfield/867881002/

At some point - people will object to landfills - then what? Dump it into the ocean. How about space?

6:08 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

@ Golden Eagles: So people object to landfills? I assume you know that most of the objection to landfills comes from environmentalists, and not local people.

Your argument only makes sense if landfills are put in populated areas. But there is no reason they should be. This is a big country, and there is plenty of open land.

Of course the liberal Journal-Sentinel is going to find a case where a landfill created a problem for the locals. But that doesn't have to happen.

10:48 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

@ Golden Eagles:

The bottom line - we have a closed ecosystem- better to think ahead 200 years or more rather than just for the next election. It makes fiscal and environmental sense to recycle and use renewables sources of energy as much as we can.

The implication of your argument is that we have to produce zero waste. Do do really believe that's possible?

If you don't, then the policy should be to reduce waste where a large reduction can be obtained without a big inconvenient to people. Cases where a tiny reduction can be obtained at a substantial inconvenience should be bypassed.

Honestly - when I hear about this - I didn’t think to myself - gees they’re trying to do this to make themselves feel good.

But you understand that moralists come to believe that massive damage is going to happen if their moralistic crusade does not succeed. A lot of environmentalists are like anti-pornography crusaders of old.

10:55 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

@ Golden Eagles:

There are good reasons for opposing fracking, nuclear power and the Keystone pipeline

Actually, no, there are not. Fracking is key to getting natural gas, which is cleaner than other fossil fuels. Nuclear has no carbon dioxide emissions. As for the Keystone Pipeline, the oil from the Alberta tar sands will get into the world market somehow, perhaps by railroad tank car (Warren Buffet owns a lot of the ones that will be used) or perhaps by tanker to China. A pipeline to Gulf oil refineries is clearly the best way for it to go.

Even the Washington Post has endorsed the pipeline:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-pipeline-debate-is-a-waste-of-energy/2017/01/27/49ca2212-e34b-11e6-a547-5fb9411d332c_story.html

You really need to understand that activists gloom onto issues for symbolic and emotional reasons, and not as the result of cool policy analysis.

That's the case with the plastic straws.

4:19 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

Should be "glom" onto.

4:21 PM  

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