How to use a plastic straw ban to teach your child moral reasoning skills

March 13, 2018 Published by

By Claire Gillies and Anna Taylor

Since Sir David Attenborough’s latest TV series, Blue Planet II, many of us have become more aware of the desperate state of our oceans. Campaigns against single-use plastics have sprung up around the country, with the humble drinking straw becoming a key focus. This is an issue that has really tugged at the heartstrings of children across the country.

Ella (11) and Amy (13), who started up the Kid’s Against Plastic campaign, were worried about single-use plastics, saying that “Plastic is a material that will last forever and yet we’re using it to make products that we use once for about 15 minutes before binning them!”


Ella and Amy Meek, two normal kids aged 11 and 13, doing extraordinary things with their campaign: Kids Against Plastic.


Meanwhile,  a school in Dartmouth that has banned plastic straws with milk following “passionate letters” from the students to the school supplier Cool Milk. Following another campaign by primary school pupils in Scotland, plastic straws were banned in the 14 bars, restaurants and cafes throughout their small coastal village.

It’s wonderful to see children getting fired up and being so environmentally aware; we need the next generation to care about the planet and engage in politics. But issues such as this are never as simple as they seem, and it’s important to use this as an opportunity for discussion and debate.

There is no denying that plastic straws are bad for the environment, and for many, they are an unnecessary addition to our drinks. The Marine Conservation Society estimates the UK uses more than eight billion straws every year, and they are among the top 10 items found in beach clean-ups.

However, some children and adults with mobility impairments rely on plastic straws to be able to drink – metal or paper straws aren’t always suitable (e.g. paper straws quickly disintegrate in hot water), and other purpose-made alternatives can be costly. Plastic drinking straws make the lives of such individuals more accessible, so an outright ban could take away their independence.

When you consider both sides of the argument, it can be difficult to reason what the ‘right’ answer is to the plastic straw ban, even as an adult. During childhood, morality is still developing; children are learning that ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ isn’t about what is good for them (in terms of punishment/reward), but what is good for everyone. Moral choices can also be made to avoid the feeling of guilt.



So while your child might struggle to come to a conclusion, the plastic straw debate offers a good opportunity to get them to practise moral reasoning. If your child has shown a passion for the issue of single-use plastic, put forward both sides of the argument and find out he/she thinks:

If we ban plastic straws, we can reduce the amount of plastic that goes into the ocean, but people with limited mobility will need help to drink without a straw.

If we don’t ban plastic straws, the amount of plastic in the ocean will stay the same or increase, but people with limited mobility will be able to drink without help by using a straw.

It’s the reasons your child gives for their opinion that is important; there may not be a correct answer at all, but learning to debate and consider all sides of an argument can exercise your child’s thinking skills and his/her ability to empathise.


What does your child think? Let us know in the comments


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This post was written by Claire Gillies

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