In Defense of Plastic Straws

We all remember that picture.

The picture of the dead sea turtle washed up on shore with its insides brimming with plastic?

If you’re recoiling from your screen right now, don’t worry—there’s not going to be a photo of it. Just the thought of it is enough to send most people reeling away.

The picture of the sea turtle has made headline after headline after its first emergence almost two months ago. But why? It wasn’t the first time that an instance like that has occurred as a result of human carelessness. Not nearly.

Reference: The Great Garbage Patch in the middle of the northern Pacific Ocean.

A close-up image of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the middle of the ocean.
 Image source.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has been the subject of great concern for numerous environmental groups since its first official documentation by Charles Moore, a yachtsman, in 1997. 

This Pacific trash vortex, which researchers like to boast is “larger than the state of Texas”, has stimulated an abundance of attention since the turn of the century. And it is not only amongst the science world but the general public as well. 

Organizations like the Ocean Cleanup have been founded with the intention of ridding all of the oceans’ plastic. For years, grocery stores have been charging people for plastic bags. 

Companies have been designing water bottles that appeal to the next generation in hopes that what was once a rite of passage (purchasing a bottle of water on the commute) can turn into a last resort. 

Even elementary school students have been assigned with the ambitious task of coming up with their own unique solutions to resolve the growing plastic problem. 

But with time comes forgetfulness, and with forgetfulness comes indifference. Sure, you would never intentionally contribute to the pollution of the ocean.

Plus, you recycle whenever you see a recycling bin. It’s not your fault that they’re not located on every corner. As quickly as the movement rose, it reached an arguable stalemate. 

And then in 2018, the dead sea turtle washed up on shore with its insides brimming with plastic.  


2018, and the two years that led up to it, have been characterised by the worldwide desire to be politically correct.

To be politically correct is to believe that language and actions that could be offensive to others should be avoided, according to the Cambridge Dictionary

Adopted by majority of the people on the internet, the focus of political correctness spanned topics such as LGBTQ+ rights, racial labels and many more. Including the use of plastic. 

When the stigma of plastic began to sweep through SAS, I’ll admit—I was a little bit confused. I had always been someone who was aware of the detrimental effects of the use of plastic in our everyday lives, but not once had I ever considered it a large enough consequence to impose upon it such a global ban.

Why, in a world filled with political mishaps, terrorist threats, and economic instability, would we focus our efforts on plastic straws? 

As visually represented above, the majority of SAS students purchased a reusable straw in response. Chart source.

But like most of my peers and teachers, I purchased a reusable straw. I believed in the cause, and felt as my contribution, however small, was significant enough to deem myself a good global citizen. 

Yet, there was something inadequate about the act. My dissatisfaction with it became clear to me when I stumbled upon a statistic, published by the National Geographic. 

“Of the 79,000 metric tons of plastic in the patch, most of it is abandoned fishing gear.”

Contrary to popular belief, this statement was less surprising to me than to my peers, who  recoiled back in shock. In fact, it largely served as a source of enlightenment.

It made me realize that the question that I had been pondering over and over again, although subconsciously, had been: Why straws?  

2018, and the two years that led up to it, have been characterized by the worldwide desire to be politically correct. Why, in a world filled with political mishaps, terrorist threats, and economic instability, would we focus our efforts on plastic straws? 

As aforementioned, plastic straws serve to be a global problem; however, it is not the most important one. It can be argued by some that modern slavery and poverty should be settled before the defence of Mother Nature. 

After all, if a cylinder-like piece of plastic can gain international distaste, then surely crimes against humanity can too. If one picture of a dead sea turtle washed up on shore with its insides brimming with plastic can unite the entire world within the span of a few days, then surely we can focus our efforts on various other international issues. 

Nevertheless, I will continue to sip on my reusable straw, decline plastic carriers at grocery stores, and make my way to the recycling bin at the end of the hall. 

But I will do so all the whilst pondering: “What else can I do?”

Author: Anyu Ching

Anyu Ching is currently a junior in high school, and this is her second year as a reporter for The Eye. This year, she joins the staff as one of the two Chief Copy Editors. Anyu was born in Singapore, but grew up in Tokyo, Japan, and spends most of her time flying back and forth between the two. Some of her hobbies include rewatching How I Met Your Mother for the seventh time, listening to The Strokes, and constantly obsessing over Harry Styles that it’s not even funny anymore. Really, it truly isn’t. Although she prefers phone calls, she can always be contacted at ching41287@sas.edu.sg.

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