Hey, friend. Have you heard about the new prevalent bane in everyone’s lives that is helping to distract from all of the horror and stupidity in the world? Here’s a few hints: They’re known as ‘The Ender of Worlds’. They’re the reason Brexit happened. They’re the reason Trump is in the White House and they’re even the cause of AIDS.
That’s right. It’s the humble plastic straw.
It’s been reported that the UK alone uses around 8.5 billion plastic straws a year. It’s since been reported that this number is solely for the fast-food industry, and (although it is a caveated number) that the figures – when pubs, bars, households etc, are taken into account – sits at around 40 billion.
That is a lot of straws. That is an awful lot of straws. It’s around 640 per person, per year, solely in the UK. To be fair to us Brits; America uses around 500 million straws A DAY. They’re a lot bigger than us though… but still.
The natural reaction to the overuse of straws is of course to attack and blame the people that provide them rather than tell people that they need to stop demanding straws. The companies that are putting straws out for the consumer to use are the ones that are getting both barrels of the “let’s tackle one thing at a time” shotgun.
Cool. Someone’s got to get it in the neck, right? There needs to be someone to blame or this country will cease to exist. It genuinely cannot be all of our collective faults BECAUSE THAT’S NOT HOW THE WORLD WORKS.
Left, right and/or centre you will see campaigns calling for the end to the plastic straw:
– Cheapest Shot xoxo
Can we also now get campaigns running to stop people thinking that biodegradable straws are the top notch solution they’re being mooted as? How about the fact that 4.4m tonnes of food are being thrown away each year and we still have people starving on the streets? Anyone for the endless amounts of plastic packaging that supermarkets and producers use to wrap up individual pieces of fruit? What about nearly every single piece of plastic in production that isn’t recyclable?
Biodegradable plastics only degrade in sunlight, UV or temperatures of around 50C. A lot of biodegradable plastics aren’t buoyant, so they’ll sink in the ocean. At the bottom of the ocean there isn’t enough sunlight, UV or temperatures of 50C to degrade the plastics that make it down there.
Another solution to tackling this is by using paper straws, but that’s a step too far for people because paper straws “go soggy” and fuck that.
Biodegradable straws are not the ticket out of this. All we’re doing is cutting the degrading process from 200 years to 20 and that’s if they manage to not make it into the ocean and not still be “digested” by sea-life. If a biodegradable straw makes its way into a turtle’s nose, it’s not going to just magically decompose in there. We’re still fucking the planet in the dick, just now we’re doing it in a more self-gratuitous way.
No-one deserves the moral high-ground when it comes to wastage. Bars are doing half of their duty by switching to biodegradable straws and they will certainly let you know about it (which, side-note, begs the question: has a bar truly gone biodegradable until they’ve Facebooked about it?), but customers need to wise up and stop being wasteful with the straws they use.
Yes, there are drinks that require straws e.g. any drink that contains a fuck ton of crushed ice like the mojito (another side note, it’s hilarious watching people drink those without straws, the first half is all good and great, but when the crushed ice and mint hit them in the face towards the end it provides at least two seconds of giggles), but a cosmopolitan doesn’t really need a straw, neither does a martini, and there are a lot of straws that get used to drink those. Half-educated and half-arsed efforts don’t equal a full pat on the back.
More needs to be done to highlight the issue with not only plastic straws, but with plastic packaging and products as a whole. We’re fixating on one thing and even then our focus is askew. If the biodegradable straw is doing anything, it’s convincing people they can continue using as many straws as they want because it’ll magically evaporate. Consumers, bartenders, bar owners, manufacturers etc need to be told the bigger picture and become better educated in the waste we can reduce and are directly responsible for creating.
We know we’re not the first people to have these views about straws, and we’re not going to be the last. We know we could be doing more to save the planet. We know we’re just as big a part of the problem as everyone else. We’re just getting annoyed with seeing everyone think they can carrying on doing anything they want just because they’re using a biodegradable straw and tweeting it out to their friends.
The solution to stopping things from burning down isn’t to get people to light lots of smaller fires in and around the place instead of just one huge bonfire, because it’s still hot and loads of rabbits will die in the process.