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Publisher’s letter: The Last Straw

Ashley Sexton Gordon. Photo by Jeannie Frey Rhodes.

Ode to that stylish, silky cylinder that pierces my crushed ice and transfers liquid directly to the top of my tongue, oh how I will miss thee. It’s been a good long run, and I’ve enjoyed every slurpy minute of it. Yes, I’m talking to you, plastic straw. Please extract yourself from the sea turtle and pay attention.

No, no, dear. You aren’t the only manmade concoction harming the environment. Far from it. The list of other items endangering the animals is longer than a south Louisiana summer.

But you are an easy bandwagon to jump on—especially after that video of you being pulled from the sea turtle’s nostril went viral. Remember what I told you about social media? Never, ever do anything that you wouldn’t want posted for the whole world to see. I guess you’ve learned your lesson the hard way.

Especially now that Starbucks is pledging to purge you from its stores, followed swiftly by a ban from American Airlines and Marriott. We all knew that it would only be a matter of time before the whole city of Seattle denied you as a drinking apparatus. You might as well stitch on a scarlet letter.

But there are others among your cohorts who deserve a public stoning as well. Let’s take the plastic cup and the big plastic lid into which you were once inserted. How did they get off so easily? It’s the viral video and the bandwagon, my love. Everyone enjoys a good cause and a great hashtag to get behind. And all the cool kids have determined that #stopsucking sounds better than #leaveoffthelid or #bringyourowncup. You’re the fall guy for sure.

This is really a shame because the alternatives are not all they’re cracked up to be. An Oakland-based think tank recently published an analysis on the effectiveness of plastic bans titled “Plastic Pollution: Bans vs. Recycling Solutions.” If only the straw-hate bandwagon would hold its horses. The study determined that the benefits of such bans are outweighed by the negative consequences. For example, paper substitutes typically produce more waste, causing greater air and water pollution. And our country has far fewer recycling plants for composting plastic alternatives.

And can we all agree that a planet in which we are forced to drink through soggy paper is barely a planet worth saving? So here’s another alternative: straws made out of noodles. Yes, it’s a thing, plastic straw, I kid you not. You can witness your replacement, and it’s like seeing your ex-spouse’s new wife for the first time. She’s not as svelte as you (she’s a carb-loader), and she leaves a bad taste in your mouth. There’s also a hay straw alternative, but I can’t even cobble together a few words to describe that.

Without you, plastic straw, I’m a lost cause. I refuse to lock my lips on the side of a glass of water at a restaurant—I’ve seen what goes on behind those swinging kitchen doors. And I will one day run out of my straw stash that I’ve been discreetly hoarding. (I recycle, you straw haters. Put down the organic tomatoes aimed at my head.)

This too shall pass. Next season, it will be some other atrocity that must be handled in sweeping bans, and social media slams and soap box stompings that evoke smug expressions from the witch-hunt crowd.

But by then, dear straw, your video will be forgotten and you may be long gone. And I will be dribbling my drink into my mouth with a medicine dropper. Fare thee well. I never needed to see the Space Needle anyway.