About those soda straws - the origin of the number

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You may have heard that California is toying with a new law that would make customers have to ask for a soda straw when they are being served a drink. If the waiter brings an unasked straw, said waiter can be fined $1,000 and there is an option for jail time. The reason for this odious piece of legislation comes from some reasearch done by a nine year old boy. No. Really. Christian Britschgi has the facts and also links to multiple cases of the media taking this number at face value.

15 Times Major Media Outlets Used a Statistic about Plastic Straws Based on Research by a 9-Year-Old
Yesterday, I reported that the oft-cited, debate-driving statistic that Americans use 500 million plastic straws a day was the product of a 9-year-old's guesstimations. Despite those shaky factual foundations, the 500 million figure has quickly spread, virus-like, across the media landscape and even into our shops and schools.

Visitors to the D.C. tea house Teaism—just a short walk from Reason's D.C. office—will be confronted with the questionable fact on a small poster adorning the restaurant's single-use straw dispenser, replete with a picture of a cute sea turtle. Meanwhile, impressionable children at the Mount Vernon Community School in nearby Alexandria, Virginia, are coming home with "Straw Wars" handouts citing the same dubious figure.

It's easy to understand how the school could have been led astray, given how ubiquitous this claim is in the media. Please see below for a list of just a few of the news outlets that have cited this "fact"—or otherwise quoted people saying it without any critical pushback—in their reporting:

Unreal. Christian also links to several environmental groups and then offers this comment:

Attempts to ban plastic straws—or indeed any plastic product—have as much to do with signaling your environmentalist bona fides as they do with actually cleaning up the oceans or saving the planet. So people pushing the claim have little incentive to investigate it. And the media have every incentive to hype the impact of a phenomenon they're covering.

Let this serve as a reminder: A statistic's popularity does not prove its accuracy.

So true - it's all about Virtue Signalling. Here is a link to Milo's page: Be Straw Free Campaign 
Eco-Cycle is a Boulder, Colorado based recycling company.

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on January 27, 2018 5:13 PM.

Heh - working at the State Department was the previous entry in this blog.

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