Why wouldn’t YOU do this!
Consider for a moment: WHY do you use a drinking straw? Think. Obviously to answer the "why" you must first consider the where and when.
Most likely, you use a straw with a meal you have purchased at some eating establishment—fine or fast—and you do it for one of five reasons:
1) Because you are trying to preserve the shiny, white enamel on your teeth by not allowing the staining coffee or tea, or perhaps acidic soda or juice to touch your teeth for as often as these damaging beverages otherwise might, were it not for the powerful protection of Super Plastic Straw.
2) Because you have a fear of germs and therefore no desire to set your lips directly onto the glass or plastic cup provided by the eating establishment.
3) Because your eating establishment of choice provides you a straw and it is your habit to use it.
4) Because your beverage is too cold to drink directly.
5) Because you are eating while driving and an open cup of anything has potential bad and possibly sticky consequences.
The fish of the world would like you to rethink this. So too would the sea turtles, sea birds, pretty much anything that lives in the ocean. Not to mention the Unicorns.
According to Nick Mallos at OceanConservancy.org, a disposable plastic straw is used on average for a whopping 20 minutes. Compare that to several hundred years it will spend not biodegrading in a landfill. Although most disposable straws can be recycled (#2 and #5 plastics), they aren’t.
We use 500 Million straws every DAY. FIVE HUNDERED MILLION. A huge number of these don’t even make it to a landfill. Because they are small and light, and because people litter, straws end up on beaches and in storm drains and, eventually, the ocean. Straws are consistently among the top ten trash items found on beaches.
Ocean Conservancy volunteers have picked up so many straws from beaches and waterways that when laid end-to-end; they would span a distance equal to California’s 840 miles of coastline. Also, they are plastic, which means they are made from oil which is a non-renewable resource that can probably go toward something more requisite than a single-use hollow tube for enjoying chilled beverages.
Here’s the thing about plastic in the ocean: It breaks down into smaller pieces without actually degrading. So animals mistake it for food. There are hundreds if not thousands of reports of animals starving to death - with bellies full of plastic. Also, it breaks down into smaller pieces which are probably toxic. So tiny, tiny fish eat a bunch of probably-toxic plastic, then a bunch of those fish get eaten by small fish, and a bunch of plastic-laden small fish get eaten by medium sized fish. Eventually, humans catch and eat these probably-toxic-plastic fish. Currently, there is not enough research for us to know what the dangers are. But recall the fairly new-found BPA knowledge? I suspect the effects of plastics in fish will make us long for the days when mercury was such a concern.
All because--okay not all because but in part because--you use straws.
So with that on your shoulders, let’s address your “reasons” for using a straw, in order:
Regarding # 1 (Preservation of Teeth):
Uhm….Seriously?! You are this worried about the appearance of your teeth, but not concerned with your overall health? Because nothing that you are drinking through that straw is good for you. Your Note-to-Self should not be “use a straw” it should be “stop drinking caffeinated beverages with a pH lower than battery acid…especially when said beverages involve sugar!” Do you drink wine through a straw? No, you don’t. And if you do? Stop. Switch to cough syrup, you’ll get more bang for your buck, and you won’t need a straw: You can drink it right from the bottle.
Regarding # 2 (Sanitary Reasons):
You’re afraid to set your lips on a cup that the ENTIRITY OF YOUR DRINK IS IN CONTACT WITH! You are not preventing anything this way, merely delaying it. Also, non-disposable cups are sent through a high-power washer at a federally-mandated gazillion degrees.
Now you’re going to complain that the dishwasher may have run out of hot water and plus the beverages touch only the inside, it’s the outside of the cup that concerns you. Yeah? Well the same gross hands that touched that cup also touched your utensils, folded your napkins, assembled your food. If you are using a straw for “sanitary” reasons? Stop eating out.
Regarding #3 (Habit):
Be a rebel. Tell them you don’t want a straw. Want to really raise a ruckus? Tell them as you order your drink: “I’d like a water with lemon and hold the straw, please.” This will start a conversation in the back, I guarantee. And some granola crunching tree hugger (who may or may not read this blog) will state all the facts I’m stating here and all the staff will be illuminated and within a few weeks it will be normal to not get a straw, you will have to request one and within a few months they simply won’t. Be. Available. And then unicorns will be found living in the wilds of Australia. It could happen!
Regarding #4 (Coldness):
Use less ice. Duh.
Regarding #5 (Takeout Cups and Driving)
I could go on here about the horrors of what fast food does to your body and mind, okay? But I won’t. I could rail against the atrocities committed by the various players involved in producing and delivering the bubbly, sugary, cotton-candy-sweet delight that is soda. But I will refrain. I won’t even point out the fact that coffee is served to people in cars all the time, straw-free. Beverage in car; no straw. Just flippy lid…. Not going to point that out.
Instead, I will suggest that if you simply MUST have straw, either to facilitate travel-friendly liquid consumption, or because you just like them, you have an oral fixation perhaps, or they bring you back to a happier time, a childhood time of summers off and no true responsibilities other than your homework and the trash then fine, FINE. Consider bringing your own, non-plastic straw to the party.
Because people are wising up to the true costs of plastic, alternatives to the classic-only-since-the-sixties plastic straw are readily available. The most popular alternatives are bamboo, glass and metal. You can purchase them on Amazon and dwarves will deliver them overnight while you are sleeping or leave them on your doorstep so your straws are waiting to greet you after your long hard workday it is soooo painless and amazing.
So stop using plastic straws. Unless you hate unicorns.
Unicorn in the Wilds of Australia Image © Sergeant20090 | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images