Do you really need that straw?
About 500 million times each day (that’s just an estimate, and some say it’s many more), Americans answer yes. But now the ubiquitous plastic cylinder has been sucked into the war against waste, a symbol of the trash crisis that overwhelms our landfills, spoils our landscapes and befouls our oceans.
“I think a lot of people feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the plastic problem,” Diana Lofflin, the founder of strawfree.org, told The New York Times. “Giving
up plastic straws is a small step, and an easy thing for people to get started on.”
That philosophy has made straws the latest environmental bogeyman, and more and more Earth-loving activists are taking aim. From Seattle to Miami Beach, cities are banning or limiting plastic straws in restaurants, and the trend is spreading from Scotland to Taiwan.
Even before laws are passed, waiters and waitresses around the country are offering straws, but not dropping them off automatically. Alaska Airlines is bumping them off its flights. McDonalds recently announced that in England, it would begin using paper straws and keeping them behind the counter until customers request them.
To be fair, plastic straws are only a fraction of the single-use plastic problem. But they’re rarely recycled, they easily become lightweight wind-swept litter, and in a heartstring-tugging consequence, sometimes they wind up clogging the nostrils of sea turtles or other marine life.
There is some resistance, including complaints from people who don’t like the “nanny state” trying to change their habits. Paper straws can cost businesses more than plastic, and they’re not good with hot liquids. You can carry a reusable straw around, but it may not be practical, although a Kickstarter campaign called Final Straw aims to produce a collapsible, reusable straw that fits into a little box and attaches to your keychain.
But as the world comes to grips with our plastic problem, the tide is clearly turning against the traditional straw. So the next time you’re thirsty, you might consider the reflections of Jennie Capellaro, owner of the Green Owl restaurant in Madison, Wis.
“Lifting a beverage to one’s mouth has worked quite well for our species for a very long time,” she said.