Plastic straw ban too abrupt

There has been increasing debate on the use of plastic straws as they are one of the most common types of plastic litter in the oceans.

Plastic straws affect marine life as animals can choke if they swallow them.

An online video showing the extraction of a plastic straw from a turtle's bleeding nostrils a few years ago drew public debate and more than 20 million views.

Many food and beverage companies have banned plastic straws and lids. While I recognise the national and global efforts in reducing plastic straw usage, there is room for improvement.

First, due to the over-reliance on straws in Singapore, the abrupt ban on plastic straws may have greatly inconvenienced consumers, resulting in widespread complaints.

Businesses should consider gradually phasing out their use to allow consumers to adjust their consumption habits. For instance, businesses can ask customers if they need a straw before giving one to them, or give straws to customers only upon request.

Second, companies can reconsider their need for single-use plastic straws. Plastic straws are unnecessary for some beverages such as probiotic drinks - they can be drunk straight from the bottle. Redesign the beverage packaging to render straws unnecessary.

Third, the reduction in plastic straw usage should not be at the expense of the needs of people such as the elderly or people with disabilities, who may need help with drinking.

Alternatives such as paper straws soften easily and may not be suitable for hot drinks, and metal straws are hard and inflexible. As such, businesses should still provide plastic straws for those who genuinely need them.

We should take a step back to look at the bigger picture and consider alternatives to the outright ban of plastic straws.

Dexter Tan