Between waiting tables and bartending over the past 18 or so years, I’ve seen a lot, and gained valuable insight into the human condition. I’ve seen people fall in love, and I’ve seen people breakup. I’ve met genuinely kind hearted people, and I’ve met absolute monsters who shouldn’t be allowed in public. Hell, I even once had a lady defecate in the women’s room trash can at a bar I worked at.
Still, I’ve never quite been able to wrap my mind around the obsession that people have with straws. I understand that straws help people with sensitive teeth, but most people’s teeth handle cold drinks just fine.
What’s baffling about our use of straws is that it’s wildly inconsistent. Why do we use straws when in bars and restaurants, but not at home? Why do people insist on straws for things like a gin and tonic or a margarita but look at you like you’re crazy if you dare put a straw in their beer? If you ordered a martini and it came with a straw you’d say “Why the hell is there a straw in my martini?” yet you probably expect one in your rum and coke.
What I’m saying is, there’s absolutely no rhyme or reason to when and why we use straws. It’s bloody chaos. That’s why I don’t see why people are making such a big deal about the straw ban.
In August the Board of Supervisors voted to ban single use plastic straws from restaurants, bars and retailers. The reasoning is that the ban will stem the tide of plastics that end up in the oceans as well as the litter than lands on our streets. San Francisco is not alone in this. Other cities like Seattle, Malibu, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Cruz also have similar bans, and California has a new law that makes it so people can only have a plastic straw if they ask for one.
While all of this is very well intentioned, the reality is that it won’t change very much. Yes, straws are dumb and wasteful, and yes we should all be doing our best to reduce the amount of un-recyclable garbage we create. Unfortunately, just like the rest of the environmental issues terrorizing the world, our impact as individuals – even if we all stopped using straws – is minimal compared to what’s done on a corporate level.
But that’s why it’s actually important. Getting individuals to stop using straws is a great way to educate them on the impact that plastic is having on our planet as a whole. And by doing so, that awareness is trickling up. Starbucks and American Airlines are jumping on the anti-straw campaign, as is Aramark, a company that supplies schools, hospitals, prisons, and other businesses in 19 countries. Combining this with bans on water bottles, cutlery, packaging, bags and all the other single use plastic things we throw away, is the way we real impact can happen. And it all starts with us pressuring our elected officials to pass these laws.
So next time someone whines about the plastic straw ban ask them why they don’t drink beer out of a straw. And then send them this article.
Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com and join his mailing list to stay up on the work he’s doing: http://bit.ly/BrokeAssList. His guest column, Broke-Ass City, runs Thursdays in the Examiner.