Former Vice President Joe Biden made clear where he stands in the straw debate, arguing that the day has come that the single-use plastic tubes are no longer necessary.
“I’m concerned about the amount of plastic being used,” said a child at a town hall in Hudson, New Hampshire on Sunday. “Because what happens is, it gets into the fish’s body and then we eat the fish… How as president would you help that?”
Biden responded by saying the government should do for straws what it does for plastic bottles, where consumers pay more for plastic bottles unless they return them to a recycling deposit for a refund. Biden also said plastic straw use should be eliminated in the food service industry.
“I don’t think we should be using plastic straws anymore in restaurants,” Biden said.
Joe Biden: “eliminate the use" of plastics, “I don’t think we should be using plastic straws” pic.twitter.com/zJBPOg05oX
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) February 10, 2020
Single-use plastic straws have become a lynchpin in the culture war between conservatives and liberals. Last summer, the Trump campaign even started selling the “Trump Straw” for $1.50 each that instantly became wildly popular among supporters. The campaign reported more than $460,000 in sales from the merchandise by late July, which by now has surely surpassed half a million.
Meanwhile, plastic pollution has remained a problem, although the majority of the world’s plastic pollution comes from India and China, not the United States. Of the U.S. contribution, a tiny fraction is straws. While the exact numbers on plastic pollution remain disputed, one of the most cited studies on the topic published in 2015 show approximately 8 million metric tons of plastic landing in the world’s oceans each year since 2010. The authors of the report say it will be 17.5 million metric tons by 2025.
The slender plastic utensils used for an hour of two before being discarded comprise 0.025 percent of the 8 million metric tons floating out in the world’s waters, lining shores and beaches and ending up in the digestive systems of wild animals.
Many news outlets have reported that Americans use an estimated 500 million straws every day. Many have criticized that number as unreliable, noting that the figure came from a 9-year-old boy’s calculations eight years ago. Several private firms, however, have since conducted research and found that Americans use somewhere between 170 to 390 million straws daily.
Biden’s comments come as the former vice president braces for another poor performance in New Hampshire following a disappointing four place finish for the campaign in Iowa last week.
“I took a hit in Iowa, and I’ll probably take a hit here,” Biden conceded on the debate stage in Manchester, New Hampshire Friday night.
Biden is currently tied for fourth place in New Hampshire with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren with 11 percent support in RealClearPolitics’ latest aggregate of polls. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders leads with nearly 29 percent, followed by former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg with more than 21 percent, and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar with nearly 12 percent.