“It’s just one straw,” said 8 billion people.
Straws were my favorite thing ever. With one of the powerful plastic cylinders in my hand, I could slurp any liquidy substance, blow bubbles in my chocolate milk and shoot paper rockets at my friends and family. They were great for make-believe too as I could quickly transform into a Walrus, Count Dracula or even Wolverine with a few handy-dandy straws.
Best of all, when I was done I got to decorate the ocean with pieces of debris in every color of the rainbow! How nice.
On July 9, Starbucks announced it would eliminate single-use plastic straws in all of its branches by 2020 (opting for the delightful new “adult sippy cup” model which may come with the unfortunate side effect of increasing our teeth’s exposure to Starbucks’ sugary acid bath instead of sucking coffee straight down our throats).
Will this save the earth? My 90s upbringing teaches me only Captain Planet has that power. (Also, how was “Heart” an element in that show?) However, one of the world’s most notorious straw purveyors has just opted to eliminate an estimated one-eighth (equaling about one billion) of the annual total of discarded plastic straws.
I’ve read every day Americans toss more than 500 million single-use straws – that’s more straws than there are Americans. Those straws could circle the planet twice (and look like beautiful garbage Saturn rings) or stuff 125 school buses.
Creating a secret straw police and causing mass hysteria with an outright ban is outlandish. Less outlandish though is choice. If every restaurant, fast food joint and coffee shop asked the simple question, “Do you need a straw?” (Or the more shameful, “Would you like to choke a sea turtle when your double almond milk hazelnut latte is finished?” which probably wouldn’t go over very well) or only offered straws through request, it could begin preventing the waste locally. Could biodegradable straws be the solution here?
My solution (when I remember) is to carry my faithful Superman tumbler, complete with reusable metal bendy straw. Instead of worrying about meeting a new straw and wondering if it will like me, I have a tried and true straw friend that is always there for me when the blended mocha urge overcomes me.
It’s the last straw for straws because that straw is my last straw.
Starbucks decision has added fuel to the straw conversation and hopefully is stretching into deeper topics about our single-use plastic use in general. I’m not asking you to quit straws cold turkey (there’s something mesmerizing about a couple mismatched colored straws poking out of a freshly made espresso drink), but I do encourage you to consider your beverage options.
Jordan Wolfe, editor