Last week, Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, announced on Twitter that he was “so over paper straws.” He posted a photo of a crumpled up paper straw in a plastic lid and wrote, “#LiberalProgress. This is exactly what they would do to the economy as well. Squeeze it until it doesn’t work.”
Within hours, Parscale tweeted again, this time sharing a link to the Official Trump Store. “Making Straws Great Again #Trump2020,” he wrote. The link led to a page where you could purchase “Trump Straws” — red, plastic straws laser-engraved with the word “TRUMP” in all caps. A 10-pack of the straws cost $15.
The website indicates that the straws are BPA free, nine inches long, made in the U.S.A., and reusable and recyclable — a claim Dune Ives, the executive director of Lonely Whale, vehemently disputes.
“The Trump straws are not recyclable,” Ives tells PEOPLE. “No plastic straws are recyclable. They’re too lightweight to make it through the sorting facility. And all plastic, if you want to consider it recyclable, needs to have a proper end-of-life use for it. The kinds of plastics from straws typically don’t have a buyer for that kind material, so we can pretty much assume they just all go into landfills.”
“The Trump straws are kind of trash,” she continued. “They’re very expensive trash, but they’re trash.”
Trump-branded straws come in the wake of recent attempts by progressives to cut back on the use of plastic straws, which can be incredibly harmful to both marine life when they end up in the ocean, and the planet when they end up in landfills. Straws are among the most common type of plastic waste found in the ocean, and according to a study by the World Economic Forum, at the current rate, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by the year 2050.
Despite the movement against straws being largely unsupported by many conservatives — especially those who don’t believe that climate change is a genuine problem — many food service companies across America have pledged to reduce their plastic straw count. Starbucks, for one, is attempting to switch to strawless lids at stores worldwide by 2020, and McDonald’s has announced plans to ban straws in the U.K. and test alternative materials in select U.S. stores. Seattle even banned straws altogether, and the city imposed a $250 fine on any establishment who doesn’t follow the rules.
Trump supporters however seem determined to slow the momentum that’s picked up in recent years. Shortly after Parscale’s original tweet, the Trump straws had all sold out online. Parscale re-shared the link on Twitter again the next day, writing, “Our amazing recyclable @realDonaldTrump straws are once again available. We sold out our first several thousand orders. Many new donors for 2020. Thank you!!” He later added that $200,000 was raised as a result.
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Trump spoke about the topic of plastic straws to reporters on the White House lawn last week. “I do think we have bigger problems than plastic straws,” he said, when asked if he would support a ban. “You know, it’s interesting about plastic straws: So, you have a little straw, but what about the plates, the wrappers, and everything else that are much bigger and they’re made of the same material? Everybody focuses on the straws,” he said. “There’s a lot of other things to focus on.”