By Katherine Kartis
I f*cking hate straws.
Plastic straws are either made of polystyrene (#6 plastic which has been shown to be carcinogenic and mutagenic), polypropylene (#5 plastic), or polyethylene (#2). Not only are plastic straws toxic, BPA-laden (BPA disrupts endocrine function), and essentially pointless, (you don’t really need a straw to enjoy a beverage) they’re oftentimes non-recyclable or rarely recycled.
Some people are under the impression that if a material is made of plastic, it can and will be recycled. The truth about plastic recycling is much more complex. Even though plastics #5 and #2 are recyclable, most people don’t put them in with recyclables, and most bars and restaurants don’t recycle them.
Americans use over five-hundred million plastic straws per day. So where do these hundreds of millions of toxic straws end up? In oceans and landfills, never to be used for their original intended purpose again.
But some people love straws, and that’s okay, there are just better options. If you do prefer to sip your iced latte through something to keep pearly whites from getting stained, there are non-plastic, reusable options such as metal, bamboo and compostable paper straws. Be proactive and BYOS (bring your own straw) whenever you go out to eat or grab a drink.
But if you’re down to say NO to straws overall to fight the soft plastic crisis, here’s some info to get you started.
- Be proactive. It’s crucial to request and emphasize “no straw” as you’re ordering your drink, not after it arrives. If everyone in America said no to a single use straws for just one day (on average about 1.5 straws per person) we would prevent 500 MILLION STRAWS from going to landfill.
- Offer a brief explanation for why you are requesting “no straw”. For example, I like to say, “Could you please ask the bartender to withhold a straw? I am trying to be eco-friendly and avoid single-use plastic” or you can be a little edgier and say “OMG DID YOU SEE THAT TURTLE VIDEO WITH THE STRAW IN ITS BEAK! I saw it and I’m trying to not use plastic straws”. A very brief anecdote will place a slightly greater sense of responsibility on the person taking your order.
- Be courteous. Always request, do not demand. Ask nicely with a smile and let the wait staff know you appreciate their attention to detail and flexibility with your eco-friendly request. Your gratitude will encourage them to hopefully make sure they don’t mess up your order by bringing your drink with a straw.
- Be fearless. If you sound timid or unsure of yourself when requesting “no straw” you might be met with an eye roll, smirk, or confused look. Instead, if you confidently give a disclaimer like “we are a zero waste table, so we kindly ask for no straws with our drinks this evening” you will instead garner a more positive reaction. (Trust me, I’ve done it, it works, and often it impresses the rest of your table!)
During my birthday dinner out in NYC, I proudly stated at the start of the meal, “we are a zero waste table and are excited to celebrate my birthday without any plastic. Could you ensure our cocktails do not come with straws?” The staff was delighted, and there were no accidental straws or misunderstandings. If you are at a more old-school, casual, or tourist-trap establishment, beware. You will need to be more vigilant and possibly reiterate at the start and end of the ordering process that it’s important to you to have no straw.
Think of it this way, if you had a food allergy you wouldn’t mess around with your health and would boldly state your custom request. Asking to avoid the toxins of plastic and the environmental impact they cause is your right.
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