Chains are spending millions to ban plastic straws from their restaurants - and according to a survey of over 1,800 young people, it's probably worth it

woman drinking milkshake strawKseniia Perminova/Shutterstock

  • Generation Z appears to be generally supportive of plastic straw bans.
  • Business Insider surveyed over 1,800 Americans between the age of 13 and 21 to find out what they think of restaurants adopting sustainability practices like ditching plastic straws.
  • Nearly 75% of respondents were either neutral on the issue or thought that it was important for businesses to ban plastic straws.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Editor's note: Business Insider surveyed 1,884 young Americans about their buying attitudes and beliefs. This is part of a series of stories that will be rolled out over the next several weeks.

Plastic straws have sure been in the news a lot lately.

They have a nasty habit of polluting our already plastic-choked oceans. The Ocean Conservancy's 2017 International Coastal Cleanup uncovered 643,000 plastic straws in beaches and waterways around the globe.

So, in an effort to reduce waste, restaurants, companies, and entire cities across the US are enacting bans on plastic straws. In 2018, California became the first state to enact a statewide prohibition on plastic straws in sit-down restaurants, with the stipulation that customers can still request a plastic straw. Major chains like McDonald's and Starbucks have gotten on board, with the companies plunking down $5 million and $10 million, respectively, toward a consortium that's developing a fully recyclable cup.

But there's been a backlash to the backlash against plastic straws. People with disabilities have sounded the alarm on the bans on social media, noting that many with disabilities rely on plastic straws to drink.

Other complaints about the ban have been far less valid. In January, a man allegedly attacked a McDonald's employee because he was upset over the lack of plastic straws in the restaurant.

Young people, however, don't seem to have much issue with chains who pick up such sustainable practices.

Business Insider surveyed 1,884 Americans between the age of 13 and 21. The national poll was conducted between January 11 and January 14 with SurveyMonkey Audience partner Cint on behalf of Business Insider.

In the survey, we asked participants: "How important is it to you that fast-food chains ban plastic and use other sustainable practices?" All respondents answered this question.

Read more: These are the brands that Gen Z shops at most, according to a survey of more than 1,800 young Americans

Over half of respondents said that they thought plastic bans were at least somewhat important. Specifically, 20.7% dubbed the bans as "very important," 16.93% thought of the trend as "slightly important," and 18.74% said they thought of the issue as "important."

A large swath of Generation Z also said they didn't have an opinion on the matter, with 17.73% of respondents saying they felt neutral about the issue. Only 16.19% of respondents said the issue was "not so important." The smallest group were the young people who didn't think this issue was important whatsoever, an opinion which 8.17% of participants held.

To put that all together, that's 74.1% of respondents who are either supportive of the bans or at least neutral on the issue. So restaurants seemingly don't have much to lose when it comes to ditching plastic straws.

This isn't the first time that Generation Z has demonstrated an interest in taking action regarding humanity's impact on the planet.

An INSIDER poll from earlier this month found that 38% of respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 - so members of Gen Z and millennials alike - predicted that a couple would consider climate change when choosing whether or not to have kids.

So sustainability measures might prove one avenue for restaurant chains to win over environmentally conscious young diners going forward.

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