Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Environmentalists Grasp at the Last Straw

With the Earth having just survived to see another Earth Day (it was Sunday, you heathen), I bring you on its behalf the following public service announcement: Straws suck.

In particular, non-biodegradable, disposable plastic ones.

Be it bendy or rigid, striped or solid, in your drink or up your nose (you ol’ cocaine cowboy, how’d you survive and disco die?), the humble single-use straw is the latest low-hanging fruit the environmentally conscientious are trying to harvest.

Anti-straw crusaders fondly cite the statistic that the U.S. population trashes about 500 million single-use plastic straws a day. This 2011 estimate comes from -- no foolin’ -- a Vermont fourth-grader and his mom who made some calls to straw manufacturers. Go ahead and laugh, but that the kid, Milo Cress, has since testified before the Granite State legislature and helped persuade the National Restaurant Association to adopt a straw-reduction policy. That makes him far more qualified to run the Environmental Protection Agency than anyone President Trump has so-far nominated.

Why all the fuss over so many seemingly small bits of plastic?

Because they add up.

Aside from sitting in landfills for hundreds of years, straws are filling up something seemingly as infinite as the ocean.

A 2016 report from World Economic Forum and Ellen MacArthur Foundation predicts that by 2050 the Earth’s oceans will contain more plastic than fish. Swedish Fish, not included. Frankly, people are also fed up with picking straws up from roadsides and beaches, and out of sea turtles’ schnozzes. A 2015 YouTube video, creatively titled “Sea Turtle with Straw up its Nostril,” shows ocean life researchers in Costa Rica carefully extracting a drinking straw from a 77-pound local swimmer. More than 21.6 million views later, and you still read about here first, you philistine.

Big Booze has even come to the cause. Rum-maker Bacardi dumped straws from its events two years ago, a move the company says keeps more than 1 million straws a year out of the waste stream. Fellow spirit-makers Diageo and Pernod Ricard announced in January they would follow suit with Pernod even dropping images of straws from ads.

Cities have banned plastic straws entirely in recent months, including Seattle, Fort Myers, Fla., and Malibu, Calif. In fact, all of California may follow with a “straw only on request” law as well as a ban on another ecological bane -- detachable plastic bottle caps. Call that that Most Leftist of Left Coast states crazy, but people of a certain age will nod in agreement when I note you don’t find can pull tabs littering the ground. Meanwhile, even more people of a certain younger age will wonder, “What the hell is a ‘pull tab’?” Point, set, match. 

There is opposition to a plastic straw ban:

  • Your grandmother, for one. She always told you to ask for a straw at restaurants because “who knows what syphilis-infested degenerate’s lips have touched that glass!” Then again, she used to smoke menthols while she, slathered in baby oil, bathed in the midday summer sun. 
  • Dentists have long said sipping acidic or sugary drinks through straws may help minimize damage to tooth enamel but you never listened to them when they told you to floss more often, so don’t be a hypocrite.

Plastic straws alternatives are available: paper (but it gets soggy), steel (expensive, hard on the teeth and potentially deadly if you stop short when sipping a Big Gulp behind the wheel), bamboo (two words – tongue splinters).

So my final thoughts on the subject include some ideas to help you – no, THE WORLD – on a quest to a straw-free life:

  • Stop glamorizing straws. Anti-smoking crusaders got Hollywood to slap harsher rating on films where characters smoke, so let’s do the same with straws. Let’s also digitally erase them from old movies, TV shows and Normal Rockwell paintings
  • Issue every American a novelty drinking helmet. Reusable and always fun at church socials.
  • Skip the fruity cocktail and quaff more beer and wine. Show me someone who’d even THINK of sipping a nice stout or a Pinot Noir through a straw, and I’ll show you someone who would club a baby seal.
Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

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