Beware the plastic witch hunt

Beware the plastic witch hunt, by Nick Cater.

The party is over for plastic straws, declared The Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday as Hungry Jacks followed Macca’s and Ikea in banishing the evil tubes from its counters.

The speed with which corporations and governments have surrendered to this eccentric campaign is a triumph for slacktivism, the one-click, cost-free way to take a stand for humanity or the planet.

Eighteen months ago, plastic straws were merely a cheap, efficient and effective way of pumping milkshake into kiddies. Now they’re hunted down by just about every petty government regulator on the planet. …

The good side of plastic:

It is difficult to find a rational explanation for the rise in public anxiety over plastic, the ubiquitous and versatile mainstay of modern manufacturing and distribution that delivers unrivalled functional properties at low cost.

Plastic food packaging cuts waste and significantly extends shelf life, making fresh food cheaper. It is strong, safe and exceptionally light. It reduces transport costs, warehouse back injuries and fuel emissions.

Having made a noble contribution to modern life, plastic can be given a decent burial as odourless, toxin-free, compacted landfill, where its stabilising and anti-leaching qualities make it the tip manager’s best friend. ..

So why? A culture of fear?

Moral panics are not new. The witch-hunts in early modern ­Europe, the 19th-century fear of airborne diseases emanating from city slums, and the syphilis scare that took hold between the wars are prime examples. …

They repeat the fatuous claim that “seemingly small daily decisions” like rejecting plastic bags and renouncing plastic straws, have “a dramatic effect on our oceans”.

Dramatic? Hardly. We are not supposed to argue, however, but simply to comply.

The faux science of marine plastic, like the faux economics of a sugar tax or the false promises of renewable energy can no longer be questioned. Scepticism itself is cast as a reason for fear.

“Fear itself has become a perspective through which life is interpreted,” writes [Frank] Furedi.

“A palpable sense of intolerance towards freedom, particularly towards free speech, is intimately connected to the working of the culture of fear.”

The other culture of fear:

hat-tip Stephen Neil