The chain believes it can reduce the number of plastic straws being tossed out every year by 1 billion by doing this. But our sudden preoccupation with plastics straws and ocean waste has me thinking: Wait, HUH?? What is happening?
Many city, state, and national governments (indeed, the E freakin’ U!) are considering a ban on plastic straws. But there are plenty of reasons to keep plastic straws around—like the fact that many disabled people rely on them to drink and alternatives like paper straws (which get soggy and fall apart) and metal straws (which don’t bend) may not fit the needs of every person with a disability.
And what about other, stickier forms of plastic: bags, lids, cups, those tiny beads in your toothpaste? Recently, I was out on a Saturday morning grabbing coffee with my roommates, and when one of them grabbed two plastic straws and handed one to me, I said, “You shouldn’t use plastic straws, they’re bad.” (Another friend had said the same to me a week or two before, and basically removed the straw from my drink at lunch.) My other roommate looked at me and said, “You’re drinking out of a plastic cup with a plastic lid.” My world slipped; I became the human version of the Mister Krabs meme.
Buried within my roommate’s brutal own is a very good point: Exactly how far are we willing to here? Plastic is everywhere, and plastic straw-shaming (forgive me for uttering such a phrase) assigns too much blame on individual actors (fuck OFF, capitalism!) and not enough on the governments and businesses that created and profit off systems that created this much waste in the first place. It feels good to take a stand against plastic straws, but we should be honest about our priorities: making ourselves feel good.