Singapore university’s plastic straw ban sparks backlash from students.

Banning straws has become a popular way for governments and businesses to respond to plastic pollution, an environmental problem that has entered the public consciousness over the last 18 months, popularised by a viral video of a sea turtle having a straw removed from its nose.

National University of Singapore’s ban on plastic straws on campus has been met with heated opposition from some students. But supporters of the ban have responded with a way to promote eco-consciousness among convenience-minded young Singaporeans.

A move by Singapore’s biggest university to ban plastic straws has met with angry opposition from some students. The iReject initiative was launched by the National University of Singapore (NUS) mid-October to curb the use of plastic straws in food and beverage outlets on the campus of 37,000 students. Paper straws are given out upon request instead.

Some students state that it is difficult to drink a beverage without a straw. Some have griped that they were not sufficiently prepared for life without straws, and the ban came as a shock. Singapore has a particularly high disposable plastic use rate, with 5.6 million Singapore residents consuming 73 million plastic straws a year. Another “angsty” student suspected that the move was not motivated by environmental consciousness, but by companies that want to scrimp on cost. Complaining that they had been “greatly inconvenienced”, the student said they needed straws because they have sensitive teeth. They added that the ban on straws was pointless without also banning the plastic seals used to cover drinking cups.

Some students have started bulk-buying straws to use in restaurants and coffee shops that do not serve them.

A reaction campaign against iReject, called iAccept, has emerged on ephemeral messaging platform Instagram Stories, with students posting images and videos of themselves enjoying using plastic straws after the ban was introduced. 

In an anonymous message shared with Eco-Business, one student said that forcing a blanket ban is backfiring, as “unconverted” students are rebelling against the idea. “Those who aren’t complaining are ok with the whole no plastics thing. But those who don’t understand [the reason for the ban], hate the movement even more,”

However, one student Eco-Business interviewed today said she had “accepted” the ban, and worked around it by cutting a hole in the plastic seal covering her drink, or by choosing a drink without a seal.

Further, in response to the iReject backlash, environmentally conscious students are staging an eco-fair this week to encourage the use of re-usables such as metal straws and support local sustainable lifestyle brands.

Source: Hicks, 2018



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