Ever given much thought to how you consume a cold drink? Well now, your chosen method could be seen as a political statement.
Thousands of Trump-branded plastic straws have been sold on the US president’s official campaign website – at $15 for 10 – since they were launched as an alternative to “liberal” paper straws.
They initially sold out online, according to President Trump’s campaign manager, before becoming available again.
The bright-red straws, laser-engraved with the word Trump, are being marketed as reusable and recyclable, with the message: “Liberal paper straws don’t work. Stand with President Trump and buy your recyclable straws today.”
Now environmental groups are saying most plastic straws can’t actually be recycled however – and that the material they’re made of has no practicable use.
One said it shows the environment is nothing more than a “joke” to the president.
It all comes after restaurants and bars started banning single-use plastic straws for environmental reasons, many citing the danger to marine life, instead favouring alternatives like paper straws.
Republican Devin Nunes also brought the issue to a wider audience when he tweeted earlier this year about restaurants living in fear of the “straw police”.
The Trump packs of straws went on sale apparently as a stand against that, with Brad Parscale signalling their sale on Twitter with the words: “Making straws great again.”
Mr Parscale said more than 140,000 straws had been sold and more than $200,000 raised.
Trump supporters applauded the move – with one saying she planned to take them to restaurants that only offer paper straws.
‘Lack of understanding’
Dune Ives, executive director of Lonely Whale, which is campaigning to prevent the use of single-use straws, said: “I’m only surprised he hasn’t come out with a whole suite of plastic items and that he’s stopped at straws.
“It just shows the lack of understanding the administration has on how the current waste management infrastructure works in the US. If they did, they’d know that straws are too lightweight to be recycled and are made of a material with no end-of-use life.”
She said she wanted people to start paying attention more to their actions when it comes to the environment.
“It’s about having a conversation,” she said. “Are we OK with having so much waste? Clearly, the Trump administration is.
“And what are we willing to be able to trade for it? Is it our freedom to be able to use a plastic straw? Or is protecting the planet for our children more important? I for one would forego a straw for that.”
‘Trolling with straws’
Amanda Marcotte, Salon senior political writer and author of Troll Nation, says the straws are another example of trolling by the Trump campaign.
“I think in part it’s because they’re ubiquitous,” she said. “It’s an easy thing to seize on to make liberals seem ridiculous. The straw seems so harmless so those who complain about them are seen as being over-reacting ninnies who want to change everything about your life as it is.”
She referred to a viral video of a sea turtle which had a plastic straw stuck in its nose that helped advance the movement against the items.
“It’s easy to convince an audience that it doesn’t affect them,” she told the BBC. “They can just choose not to watch it and say it’s an abstract idea. But using a plastic straw is real and substantive to people. The misery of a sea turtle isn’t something they have to pay attention to.”
She said that the Trump campaign advertising the straws as being environmentally-friendly is “just part of the trolling”, adding: “They’re deliberately doing something bad for the environment to get people angry, and then saying ‘but it’s recyclable’.”
Trump himself has spoken about the issue, saying: “I do think we have bigger problems than plastic straws.
“So you have a little straw, but what about the plates, the wrappers and everything else, that are much bigger and they’re made of the same material? So, straws are interesting.”
Republican strategist Brad Blakeman claimed that “straws have become the strawman for environmental misguided policies of the left”.
He told the BBC: “Straws are the least of the problem when it comes to waste. What about plates, garbage bags and other plastic products that dwarf the harm caused by plastic straws to our environment.
“Straws have become a symbol of hypocrisy and measures that do not mean anything when it comes to solving the real problems of waste and responsibility.
“So the Trump campaign is pointing that out through merchandising.”
Ariel Hayes, political director of environmental organisation, Sierra Club said: “Once again, Donald Trump is reminding us that he is the worst president of the environment in history.
“Just a few days ago, he tried to greenhouse gaslight the country by saying he wants to clean up the oceans and now he’s turning around and pulling this stunt.
“This proves protecting the environment and the health of our planet is nothing more than a joke to Trump and his campaign.”
Earlier in July, the president had spoken about the environment, saying he was “revising the past administration’s misguided regulations to better protect the environment and to protect our American workers” and that he was taking on “the challenge of marine litter and debris”.
The Plastic Pollution Coalition said that “plastic pollutes at each stage of existence, from extraction to use and disposal” and that eight million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean every year.
Its co-founder and CEO Dianna Cohen said: “The problem with plastic straws is not the shape, it’s the material. Our planet is facing a plastic pollution crisis.
“Even if plastic is ‘recyclable’, 91% of plastic isn’t recycled. Plastic that is ‘BPA-free’ still contains toxic chemicals that are harmful to human health.”
She added that “plastic straws can be a gateway issue that meaningfully shifts the way people in communities all over the world think about single-use plastic”.