Words by Cameron Higgins

Plastic straws might be the new cigarettes.  

They’re small, mass-produced cylinders that (very frequently) deliver dangerous chemicals like high-fructose corn syrup and liquor into human bodies. Unlike cigarettes, however, straws aren’t choking humans. They’re choking the earth. Baby sea otters, cute baby dolphins, tiny koala bears, etcetera….are probably dying right now from plastic straw pollution.

So we’ve gotta stop using them right?

Well, yes, we do.

The only problem is: straws are pretty crucial for drinking liquid, and drinking liquid is pretty important to sustaining human life. We use skinny little ones to stir our coffee. We use wide ones to consume beverages, both healthy and deadly. We use plastic straws without thinking about plastic straws, and they’re everywhere.

Realistically, plastic straw use has to be eliminated from the top down. In an admirable move, Starbucks is eliminating plastic straws from their cold beverages in the near future. Seeing as we clearly like our various mass-produced toys and designer clothing more than we like boycotting sweatshops, people are not going to forego the plastic straw unless it is easy as shit to do.

 

This means two things: plastic straws have to become something that is so fun to hate (like the President) that it would be social suicide to be seen drinking through a straw. Of course, that’s discounting large swaths of the United States where caring about the environment is social suicide and owning libs is the cool thing to do.

So we just need a viable, mass-producible alternative to the plastic straw, right?

Like paper straws you say?

Good idea, but paper straws taste bad and get soggy. They kind of suck. Queue dad jokes. Really though: plastic straws suck for the environment. Paper straws suck for the thirsty.

Reusable carbon-fiber straws that come with cool holsters, straws made out of CBD that melt as you drink your beverage, straws made out of beverage-enhancing force fields…these all sound better than both paper and plastic straws. Unfortunately, we’re a long way off next generation straw technology.

Because we’re upset about the constant violence done to mother earth, we’re being snarky here. This piece isn’t meant to belittle or dismiss an issue as important as reducing plastic waste, just to highlight the relative difficulty of making small changes in a modern society defined by profit-driven commodification and relative comfort.

Moreoever, straws aren’t anywhere near a leading source of plastic trash. Even the founders of the anti-straw initiative explain that straw-elimination is more of a consciousness-raising exercise meant to get everyone thinking about their plastic use, rather than a hard-charging attempt to significantly curtail human waste.

So yes, let’s challenge ourselves to forego straws. Drinking from the mouth of our Big Gulps and cold brews rather than sucking them up isn’t a big deal…besides, a few coffee stains will only strengthen your rejection of personal vanity.

But more importantly, let’s use this as a jumping-off point and collectively wave our middle fingers at plastic in general. Let us shame those unabashed plastic users, those heathenous, foul-breathed litterbugs. Remind them that for every sip of soda, some frolicking baby panda is dying from a plastic overdose.

Kidding, but really. Let’s avoid the plastic whenever we can. Get re-usable water bottles, take a sturdy coffee mug with you, find something other than a red-plastic cup for your open-container aversion tactics and please, recycle.

We have to make it easy for ourselves to do the right thing, because life is hard and plastic straws are easy.