Plastic straws: The new battleground in the culture wars

by Cory Garcia

It might seem weird at first that plastic straws are the newest battleground in the culture wars, but the more you think about it, the more that it makes sense. Straws are the perfect, mundane item that everyone is familiar with, the majority of people use, and are a perfect symbol to represent American laziness.

“Look at this guy using a straw, too good to raise his drink to his lips,” our strawman thinks to himself, watching an imaginary someone slurp up a soda. But weirdly, in a world that is increasingly black and white, the subject of plastic straws is oddly complicated.

The argument against plastic straws is that they’re wasteful. They take as long to degrade as anything else made of plastic, which is to say they’ll be around long after you and I are gone, but they’re single-use items that everyone views as extra disposable. When you see the number that end up in the ocean, it’s easy to rally against the humble straw that served you well while you were driving around town, or cooling off with a milkshake.

But while straws are a casual luxury for most of us, there are people out there that need straws to survive. Without them, some people just can’t drink. And sure, there are alternatives to plastic straws, but most of them have drawbacks for people with disabilities that plastic straws don’t; NPR has a good writeup on the cons to plastic straw alternatives for those that want to know more. Doing what we can to save the world might feel good, but does it feel better than putting some of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters in a worse position?

There’s nothing wrong with being in favor of plastic straw bans; in a world that is falling apart more and more as the days go by, finding little ways to fight to save it certainly does feel good. After all, the joy of living in a capitalistic society is in knowing that there’s literally nothing you can do to stop the real problems with ocean pollution, like fishing nets and tools. But what makes more sense: banning an item, or working on our own use of said item? And before you say, “Well, why don’t people with disabilities just carry their own straws around?”, pause and consider how much of a jerk you sound like.

Of course, this might not even be an issue if the plastic straw lobby was more powerful, so if there’s anything we can agree on, pro-plastic-straws or not, it’s that it’s refreshing to know that there’s at least one industry out there that doesn’t have the pockets to push around weak politicians.

Cory Garcia

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