Paper straws have caught on in a big way. My first experience with paper straws came last week while vacationing in Maui with a friend and her 18-year-old granddaughter. Choosing a Lahaina Lemonade drink rather than my usual wine, the libation came to me with a red-and-white paper straw. I took a photo—as any good journalist would do—because, even on vacation, I felt a blog coming on.
My friend’s granddaughter made the first comment after taking a few sips of her non-alcoholic drink: “You can kind of taste the paper,” she said.
After a few sips, I knew what she meant. Yes, you can kind of taste the paper, even when drinking pink lemonade laced with vodka.
Articles I read back home in Phoenix noted how many restaurants in the area have replaced plastic straws with paper ones. Many of the restaurant owners commenting in the various articles said that they gave up plastic because the paper straws are “compostable.”
Well, that’s an admirable goal except for one thing: The composting facility in Phoenix does not accept paper, only food and “green” yard waste (grass and bush trimmings). Touting the fact that your restaurant has tossed plastic straws in favor of paper straws makes you sound green, but if there’s no place that accepts paper straws or plates and cups, you’re not being green. You’re merely adding to the landfill. Using plastic plates and cups means they can be recycled.
At another restaurant, I noticed the straw in my Bloody Mary had a very thick wall section, probably so that the straw would hold up for the amount of time required to sip the drink. Not having any measuring instrument on me, I’d have to guess that the wall section of the straw was approximately 1 mm thick.
Only one restaurant we visited had plastic straws. I won’t mention the name for fear of alerting the straw police.
Santa Barbara, a beautiful city on the ocean in the People’s Republic of California, just banned plastic straws. Anyone caught giving them out could face a “fine not exceeding one thousand dollars” or “imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months.”
Marie McGory, a producer for National Geographic, tried taking a “plastic-free” vacation trip to Belize recently, and wrote of her efforts in “How to Take Your Next Trip without Single-Use Plastic.” She took a “reusable” grocery bag (I’m assuming it was a nonwoven or cloth bag and not a plastic bag, which is also reusable if she’d stop to think about that). She also confessed that she ended up using two plastic straws even though she took a glass straw with her. A glass straw? What about breakage? What about the possibility of dropping it and the glass shards cutting someone’s foot? Tsk, tsk!