Paper Straw Initiative at SMC Invokes Student Reactions

Karat Earth are compostable straws made from paper, taken on Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018. (Ruth Iorio/ Corsair Photo)

Karat Earth are compostable straws made from paper, taken on Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018. (Ruth Iorio/ Corsair Photo)

During the Santa Monica Sustainability Fair on April 17, Plastic Free SMC announced that they had convinced all campus vendors to swap out plastic straws for compostable paper ones. This change swept over campus shortly after, invoking mixed reactions from many students.

Plastic Free SMC had been planning the changes for several months, and was able to persuade vendors on campus to take the paper straw initiative.

The current vendor SMC uses for paper straws is called Karat, an eco-friendly disposable paper and plastic foodservice products provider. The information page for the straws can be found here, but does not include information on pricing or distribution.

The Associated Student Finance Committee held a meeting on May 16 when they granted “Approval for Sustainability for Paper Straws”, that purchased the new paper at a cost of $268.00. But since the straws were replaced on campus before this date, it is unlikely this is the first purchase of these new straws. 

Students at Santa Monica College do not seem to have a problem with eliminating plastic straws, but with the quality of the paper straws that SMC is using. “Paper straws are not practical, plastic straws are bad for the environment. Solution: Dare to put your lips on the edge of a cup. It won't kill you,” says Ian Nelson, an SMC student. “That said, giving people straws that do not work is silly. Paper straws should not be a thing unless they function comparably to plastic ones.”

Other students feel more strongly about the environment and voice less concern with the straws. “500 million straws are thrown away every day in the US. Plastic straws are single use items, but they last forever. Whether you like it or not, they're going to be banned in many places, so if you use straws, but don't like paper straws, just get your own reusable one,” says Caro Vilain, SMC student. “I personally don't have to worry about not having a straw because I was born with lips, they do a pretty good job at letting me drink out of a cup.” 

Many students have proposed alternatives, including better quality paper straws, pasta straws, metal straws, and even no straws at all. “I think straw-less lids would be better than the paper ones -- I care about the environment, but the paper straws are atrocious.” says Mariah Reynolds, another SMC student.