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Q: Why the push to ban plastic straws?

A: More and more people are calling for an end to plastic straws and other single-use plastics in an effort to be more environmentally conscious, often citing the levels of plastics found in the ocean and in marine animals.

Those against plastic straws, including the Plastic Pollution Coalition, say plastic straws are just one piece in reducing plastics in the environment, but it is an easy place to start for some people.

Last week, Seattle became the first major U.S. city to ban single-use plastic straws and utensils at restaurants and bars. Other cities, including New York and San Francisco, are considering similar proposals, The Associated Press reported.

“The problem with many single-use items — straws, wrappers, plastic bags, baggies, bottle caps on cartons and many, many more items — is that these items are ending up not only in the trash but also litter on city streets, in streams, rivers and eventually in the ocean,” said Cathy Middlecamp, a professor in UW-Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

These small plastic items can also be difficult to recycle, Middlecamp said. They may be contaminated with food, the type of plastic isn’t typically stamped on them, and commercial machines that sort commingled recycling don’t often handle small items well.

— Shelley K. Mesch

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Shelley K. Mesch is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal. She earned a degree in journalism from DePaul University.