Much like a wrecking ball, tornado, or the utterly delightful early-summer surprise Book Club, a passionate hatred for plastic straws appears has crashed into my life without warning, causing a seismic shift to my general consciousness and word-view.
That I used plastic straws for a large percentage of store-bought cold beverages and thoughtlessly tossed them into the trash can—not even a recycling bin—for decades now brings a sour feeling to my stomach. That I was ever able to look at a wrapped plastic straw and not whisper, “Earth murderer,” pains my fragile little brain. My pre-enlightenment willingness to “suck and toss”—a phrase that could describe many things but for this blog’s purposes specifically means using plastic straws and disposing of them after a single use—is now a blight on my life. But is it on yours? That apparently depends on where you live.
The effort to ban single-use plastic straws—which pollute the oceans/coastlines and harm wildlife—has been a talking point for environmental activists for the better part of a decade, but their staggering figures (namely, that Americans are estimated toss 500 million plastic straws every day) escaped me until last week, when news of proposed bans began entering most—if not all—of my feeds.
Per NBC News, “most of the efforts on the issue have taken place at the local level,” so it’s unsurprising that I didn’t really pay attention until the fight came to my doorstep last week, when a proposal was introduced to to kick them out of bars and restaurants in New York City. Similar bans are being considered in the notoriously Earth-loving and plastic-hating states of California and Hawaii, as well as the whole dang European Union.
Based on data from Google Trends, interest in “straw ban” reached a fever pitch in January, around the time California Assemblyman Ian Calderon proposed a bill “that would make straws only available upon request.” The initial viral outrage over the proposal quickly was cleverly parlayed by anti-straw activists into a megaphone for their long-held belief that single-use plastic straws are a scourge on this planet.
Before long, searches for “straw ban” led not only to Fox News op-eds on California liberals ruining society, but to quotes from actor/activist Adrian Grenier saying things like:
...I challenge you to start paying attention to the straws you get in your iced coffee, smoothies, soda, and cocktails. When I’m in New York or LA the number of plastic straws I receive is often closer to 10 a day.
When was the last time guilt-ridden environmental consciousness spread this quickly? Soda can rings? The closest recent example I can think of is the slowly-but-steadily rising campaign against plastic bags (which I’m more than happy to dump on), but even that crusade lack the sort of turtle- and fish-killing horror that was successfully applied to soda can rings in the early ’90s, and plastic straws over the past few months.
But another entity that may be helping the cause of anti-straw activists is President Trump. Americans are riled up over the increasingly complex and disturbing political nightmare that has been unfolding every day for the the past 18 months, but at best, we’re too overwhelmed to do anything about it. (At worst, we’re just lazy.) We are stark-raving mad about everything right now, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day to protest after working multiple jobs, sitting in traffic, and catching up on both Westworld and Westworld recaps. Deciding you hate plastic straws and spreading Adrian Grenier’s talking points your friends about it is easy and cathartic armchair activism, so I am fully expecting every coffee shop in Brooklyn to be either using exclusively paper or hemp straws or implementing a B.Y.O.M.S. (bring your own metal straw) policy by year’s end.