The popular statistic that claims 500 million plastic straws are used in America every day was created by a nine-year-old fourth-grader in 2011.
“That figure has been cited widely, appearing in stories by USA Today, CNN, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News and, yes, even The New York Times,” reported the New York Times this month. “But consider the source: The number is based on research conducted years ago by an enterprising 9-year-old Vermont boy named Milo Cress.”
Cress, who was in fourth-grade at the time, had no access to other statistics, and instead based his claim on comments from plastic straw manufacturers who he called up.
“It is honestly a little surprising,” declared Cress, who is now seventeen-years-old. “I came up with this statistic because I couldn’t find anything else about it. If there are other statistics on how many straws we use that are based on more rigorous research than the research that I did, I’m happy to embrace those.”
According to the New York Times, “market research firms” estimate that the figure is actually between 170 million and 390 million plastic straws used in America per day.
The statistic created by Cress when he was in fourth grade has led to an environmental movement to ban plastic straws. Seattle became the first major U.S. city to ban straws. San Francisco has joined in by banning straws and stirrers. Starbucks has embraced the cause by announcing it would phase out plastic straws by 2020.