Tiny Tip #4 – ditch the plastic straw
Americans use 500,000,000 straws each year. That is a fuck ton of straws and it’s a really big problem.
Plastic straws (contrary to popular belief) are not recyclable. Generally, recycling facilities cannot handle materials that are smaller than two inches in two dimensions. Of course, you should always check with your local recycling facility if you have any questions but don’t assume just because something is plastic that it can be recycled. When we recycle plastics, we are essentially downgrading the material into a lesser quality plastic that will eventually have to be landfilled. Reduction and reuse are far superior options to recycling.
Many people don’t realize that plastic is derived from oil. We are using our dwindling supplies of this fossil fuel to create unnecessary products that are filling up our landfills. Gross. This is an issue that extends way beyond plastic straws, but I digress – lets stay focused.
Plastic straws are a real danger to wildlife. I knew that straws were a problem and was no longer using them at home but I was really having a hard time remembering to avoid straws when I was at a restaurant or a bar. This video was the catalyst for me to make a change. It’s pretty graphic and it breaks my heart to watch. It’s easy to be complacent and essentially ignore an issue until you see shit like this.
While far from perfect, I do my very best to order my drinks sans straw. My typical order is vodka, soda, lime and no straw, thanks! In Vermont, most bar tenders and servers don’t think this is weird request. Sometimes I still end up with a straw because it’s such an engrained habit to add a straw. Many times I’ve witnessed a bar tender from across the bar (yeah, I’m watching you!) put a straw in my drink, remember my request, remove the straw and throw it in the trash. Ugh. But you gotta keep on, keepin’ on. No time to be discouraged.
If I’m in a quieter place, I’ll say something like “I’m trying to reduce trash, can I have my drink with no straw please?”. When I’m traveling in a place that is perhaps a little less green, I tend to order something that isn’t typically served with a straw – like beer or wine. This is the safest bet, especially if I’m already a little tipsy.
When I was poking around the internet trying to find more facts about straws, I discovered that Burlington, VT has a Straw Free Proclamation on the books. One of the things I love most about Burlington is its commitment to the environment. But after living here for 5 years (holy crap, time goes so fast), I have rarely seen evidence of the proclamation being acted on – pretty disappointing. Burlington, you can do better. We can all do better.
Of course there are times when you don’t even have the chance for to ask for no straw. So often our water glass comes to the table with the straw already in the glass. I like to scan the scene as soon as I enter. I creep on peoples tables to see what they have as far as disposable napkins, plastic straws etc. This helps me be on the defense and avoid trash before it comes to my table-also I get a chance to see what delicious things people are eating. Actually, if I’m being honest, I’m mostly just staring at your food and salivating.
For those times when you just have to have a straw – I’m looking at you Bloody Marys – try any of the many reusable options that are out there. Personally, I use a stainless steel straw and love it. A lot of people use glass. Although I do have a few of them, I try to avoid the plastic ones. They are hard to clean and can get pretty germy. Also, if you put a plastic straw in a hot bevie you run the risk of leaching all sorts of nasties into your drink and then your body. Mmmm plastic.
I mostly use my metal straws in my reusable tumbler but sometimes bring them to restaurants with me. It’s a great conversation starter and can provide you with the opportunity to you can also casually mention to your server movements like EcoCycle’s Be Straw Free campaign.