Plastic Straws Are Disappearing & Turns Out Nobody Cares

It would be cause for celebration—if anyone even noticed.

By Ethan L. Johns
May 11, 2018

Image: Godong/UIG via Getty Images

Not all inventions are necessary. We might believe that we couldn’t live without the kale leaf stripper, but we would just be demonstrating an immense lack of creativity. At first glance, we might also believe that we need the plastic straw.

Turns out this is false.

According to a report from the New York Times, published on Thursday, many people don’t even care when they disappear.

Coffee shops that offer compostable paper straws are finding that people choose them over a plastic alternative. Bars are realizing that a margarita with a salted rim makes no sense, because the straw defeats the whole purpose of the salt. Others are realizing that a glass of water can be drunk by putting lips to the glass.

Over 500 million plastic straws are used daily in the United States, according to the Plastic Pollution Coalition. Part oral fixation, part mindless habitude, plastic straws are dropped on restaurant tables by the dozen and then dropped in the trash. Many of these wind up in the ocean, where they can be ingested by marine animals. Eventually, they—along with bottles and other plastics—break down into microscopic pieces, which are nearly impossible to track or remove.

“You use a straw for 10 minutes, and it never goes away,” said founder Dianna Loffin to CNBC. Her organization preaches the benefits of reusable bamboo straws. (It also sells them.)

While consumers continue to demand straws for their iced coffees and acidic sodas, waste can be reduced by limiting the urge to automatically hand out them out. Solutions include keeping straws behind the counter of restaurants and shops where customers can’t just grab them mindlessly. Paper straws are more expensive, but decompose more quickly than plastics.

For now, some might not be able to imagine a world without the plastic straw. But one day, like the avocado slicer, we might see the thin tubes for what they truly were: pointless.

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About Ethan L. Johns

Ethan is the Food News Writer at Genius Kitchen. An expert on the Parisian bistrot, he likes bitters and salted butters, and is no fan of dessert unless it's made with fruit. His hobbies include reading up on the history of borscht and attempting to roll perfect couscous by hand. Twits & Instagram @EthanLJohns