I mean, everybody knows that plastic straws are evil, right? RIGHT?!? Well, if you have any doubt in your mind as to whether or not plastic straws are evil, please check out these references:
• How much are we trashing our oceans? http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/12/world/ocean-trash-pollution/
• Plastic Straws: A Life Cycle http://blogs.worldwatch.org/plastic-straws-a-life-cycle/
If you still need convincing that plastic straws are evil, watch the video below. Warning: It will give you nightmares and haunt your waking hours to the end of your days…
Good. Lord. That’s hard to watch. Seriously, unless you are a heartless monster, watching this video will ruin your day, destroy your mood, make you cry, or even make you feel sick to your stomach. None of that is an exaggeration, including the nightmares mentioned above. Two of my friends told me they had nightmares about this video after viewing it. So, yes, let’s just start with the premise that plastic straws are pure fucking evil.
In my opinion, most if not all plastic things are evil, but I’m concentrating on straws for now, because they are one of the more useless evils in the world, and one that I think we can totally do without. We don’t really need plastic straws, we just kinda like them, and as with almost everything else that’s completely fucked-up and wrong with the world, we’re pretty much willing to turn a blind eye to the truth staring us right in the face in order to make our own personal lives a li’l bit more convenient and enjoyable. I’m guilty of it just as much as anybody! For example… when I first started to become aware of the obvious fact that plastic straws are evil, I was all high and mighty about it, and like, “Well, I don’t really use them anyways, so…” Then, because I started paying attention, I noticed, to my surprise that I do use them! Like, all the time! Ack! What the fuck?
I use them by default, almost on auto-pilot. Just doin’ like I been doin’. I go out to eat, get a drink, grab a straw, peel off the straw bag, pop the straw in the drink, and I’m suckin’ away at it like a three year old with a fuckin’ juice box. Wow. What an idiot. “I don’t use straws?!?” Yeah, right! You use straws, Stu! We’ve aaalllll been using straws for our entire fucking lives!
Using straws is such an ingrained part of my ergonomic habituation in this post-fast-food American life, that my brain doesn’t even register my actions any more, because my muscle memory is completely in charge.
“Take a break, Brainiac, you think too much. I got this one covered,” said my subconscious to my ego, completely ignoring the obvious issues of environmental degradation, while grabbing a weird plastic tube that I somehow feel the infantile need to sip cold, sugary, carbonated beverages through.
I am not a three year old. This is not a juice box. I am an adult human being with the ability to make choices based on logic and priorities beyond my own selfish desires. I ain’t never using a plastic straw ever again for as long as I fucking live.
Yay! No more straws for me. I can feel good about that decision, but… I strongly believe that global environmental issues such as the proliferation of plastics can not be “consumer driven” by individuals like me and you. At a certain point — like right now — the people who manufacture and distribute certain products — let’s just start with plastic straws — need to take the lead, take the initiative, take the economic hit if that’s what is needed, but please, for the love of God and the sake of the entire world, take our plastic straws away from us!
I don’t personally know any straw makers, but since I write about food, I’m respectfully, directly calling upon all of the restaurants in Asheville… ALL of them… McDonald’s I’m looking at you too… to eliminate plastic straws from your venues today. Tomorrow if you have to, but don’t wait until next week, do it, like, now ‘n’ shit, because every fucking day that your customers are using plastic straws, those straws are messin’ up our water ways, littering our streets and parks, or at the very best, hanging out in a landfill FOREVER.
Every piece of plastic ever made still exists today. Think about that. Frightening. I mean, turtles live a long time — some live over a 100 years! — but a turtle could live, die, rot, be eaten by other sea creatures, and its skeletal remains dissolved by the sea, at which point the straw in its nose would float away, adding itself to the horrific masses of plastic drifting in our oceans, or finding it’s way inside of another sea creature to burden, hinder, and weaken it for another lifetime.
I can stop using straws, and that will make a tiny difference, but if every restaurant in town stopped using plastic straws, that would make a much bigger… tiny… difference. Right? Right. And then we just go from there, making bigger and bigger tiny differences, until, maybe we can get some plastic straw makers to STOP MAKING PLASTIC STRAWS! Holy fuck. Talk about an obvious solution to a horrible problem that doesn’t involve literally changing the reflexive dining habits of every single citizen of the United States one at a time… Yeah, please, just stop fucking making plastic straws… duh… seems easy… but.. whatever…
Chef Mike McCarty from The Lobster Trap — a very nice person who totally gives a shit about the environment and works diligently to support ethical fishing practices when sourcing food for his restaurant — saw the turtle video when I posted it on Facebook, and eliminated plastic straws immediately from his restaurant. Mike, like any concerned citizen would, replaced all of his regular plastic straws, with a “compostable” straw made by a company called Eco Products. Just doing a little light research myself, I was able to find out that Green Sage Cafe, 67 Biltmore, Zambra, and City Bakery (and I’m sure many more venues in Asheville) are also using compostable straws. I went and got one. I admit I was dubious. They look and feel exactly like plastic, and the claims on the wrapper, that it is made of plants, and is “compostable,” as opposed to biodegradable didn’t convince me. Bioplastics can be made from plant matter, which is better than making them from petroleum, but they are still plastic, and even though they may be compostable, that does not mean they are biodegradable.
Bioplastics are plastics derived from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, or microbiota. Bioplastic can be made from agricultural by-products and also from used plastic bottles and other containers using microorganisms. … Some, but not all, bioplastics are designed to biodegrade. – Wikipedia [ LINK ]
That’s an important distinction, and the company’s web site more or less confirmed my doubts…
“Made from a renewable resource, these Green Straws are able to break down in a commercial compost facility.“
Question: Ezzackly how many straws actually end up in a “commercial compost facility?” Let me bust out my giant-sized, old school, Texas Instruments calculator from the 1980’s… tap tap tap… carry the one… divide by three… beep boop beep…
Answer: Not that many.I respectfully, humbly, and officially caution Chef Mike and other caring individuals against compostable, bioplastic straws. They are better than regular plastic straws, but not by much. If you can find a viable alternative, please consider it.
Chef Jill Wasilewski from Ivory Road Cafe also watched the turtle video and immediately ordered reusable straws for in-house patrons, that can be sterilized right along with the flatware, etc. I know that at least one other restaurateur was concerned that reusable straws would be a high-theft item. I’ll ask Jill a month or so from now how many she has left! 🙂
Chef Joe Scully admitted to me that he’s behind the curve on this one, but he is in the process of replacing all of his plastic straws at Chestnut and Corner Kitchen, probably with paper straws. He reported to me that he went to eat at Bull & Beggar, and was jealous of their paper straws. Joe likes to be at the forefront of these types of environmental issues, and indeed he usually is. Having him on board with paper straws will be a big deal, and I will surely be looking to him to help me convince others to do the same. Again, I’ll check back with Joe to see how that’s going.
Of course, I think paper straws are the best straw option, but doing without a straw altogether is what I’m personally going to opt for most of the time. I have always believed that the key word in the phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle,” is REDUCE. As in: Make less stuff. This throw-away culture is literally killing us. We gotta put forth a real effort, as individuals and industries, to make and use less stuff. Restaurants, cafes, bars, and other beverage outlets need to greatly reduce the number of straws — plastic, paper, whatever — that they and their patrons use. It’s too much stuff!
Peter Slamp from Zambra let me know that when he couldn’t find a non-plastic replacement for the tiny stirrer-straws at their bar, they simply stopped using them. Ahhhhh… that felt good to read. Yay, less stuff. I know that Barcardi Rum is making an effort to do away with those little stir straws, so maybe some of our local distilleries can get on board with that?
Bacardi Initiates a ‘No-Straw’ Movement to Reduce Waste https://www.bacardilimited.com/bacardi-initiates-a-no-straw-movement-to-reduce-waste-2/
Awesome! We’re all gonna stop using straws, right? The eaters and those who feed us are gonna team up to make Asheville a Straw Free Zone! Yes! But as I said, conscientious individuals can’t be held entirely responsible for environmental degradation, and ultimately the people who manufacture plastic straws need to join the team too. They’ve done a fine job of providing us with plastic straws, thank you very much, now please stop.
Stu Helm is an artist, writer, and podcaster living in Asheville, NC, and a frequent diner at local restaurants, cafes, food trucks, and the like. His tastes run from hot dogs and mac ‘n’ cheese, to haute cuisine, and his opinions are based on a lifetime of eating out. He began writing about food strictly to amuse his friends on Facebook.
UPDATE: I have been informed that there are two demographics of people who will be very hard to break of the straw habit: 1) Those who wear lipstick and 2) Children.
I do enjoy the visual appeal of lipstick and will suggest either paper or reusable straws for lipstick enthusiasts, however I do NOT enjoy children, so I will suggest that all children be rounded up, placed into confinement camps, forced to watch the turtle video over and over with toothpicks holding their wee little eyes open, and that they only be released back into regular society when they’ve gone through an extreme vetting process, and have sworn off straws forever. Phffft. Children. They are SO selfish!
I’m kidding of course. I love children, and you know who will be first in line to stop using plastic straws forever and ever? Children. [ LINK ] Kids feel more empathy for animals and nature than grown-ups do. When kids understand the damage that straws are causing, they will be leading the campaign against them, and I can all but guarantee, they will also be ALL OVER the grown-ups to get with the program! In any effort to better the planet, kids are always some of Mother Nature’s strongest allies.
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What an informative and powerful article Stu. I will never use a straw again and thank you for using your writing to get a strong and important message across.
Thanks for this article. I never understood why Asheville restaurants used plastic straws instead of paper. There are even companies that produce straws made out of rye straw (www.strawstraws.com). Bring back paper straws! It may take some bulk ordering and cooperation, but it’s well worth it!