Plastic straws to go – Plastic bags have been banned, well sort of: they are still around although in a sturdier shape (and more expensive too). For some strange reason, policy-makers think that these new bags are less damaging to the environment. Why didn’t they go for paper bags instead or if they still wanted plastic, just biodegradable ones? It seems that those who design environmental policies move “in mysterious ways” too.
Some people have been mentioning plastic bottles as the next target in their campaign to save our oceans, but that would mean to face compelling players in the corporate world: Coke, Pepsi, Nestlé, hmm, I have my doubts whether there would be much action on this front.
Then and still in the area of drinks and sodas, a new target has been found: plastic straws. Just last week a bar in Montreal has decided to move away from straws in their drinks. In fact, you don’t need a straw to sip your favourite cocktail or soft drink. The bar owner explained that people with some disability that may require the little device would still get one, but not the general public. Outside the bar scene, small children drinking soda in a restaurant may still need a straw too. In the final analysis, however, straws are not really necessary, they were introduced mostly to add a sign of sophistication to the act of drinking especially those fancy cocktails where one has to deal with pieces of ice and fruits. A significant expression of sophistication in this matter came with the production of glass straws, elegant devices that I remember my father once brought home to use when drinking a cold rum and coke (a “Cuba Libre”) his favourite cocktail.
Regarding drinking straws, however, there is an interesting detail that should not be overlooked: in the beginning, they were very environmentally-friendly, since they were by-products of wheat and other harvests which would degrade naturally into the environment. Why do you think they are called “straws”? They were the dry, tube-like twigs of various plants, cut to fit into a bottle or a glass. I remember during my childhood in the 1950s drinking soft drinks with the help of real, natural straw.
Of course, eventually the natural straw had to give way to the synthetic one: “Plastics” said Mr. Maguire to recent graduate Benjamin in the iconic 1967 movie “The Graduate,” adding, “There is a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?” Undoubtedly many people since then have been thinking about this ubiquitous material which invaded every single human area, and eventually ended up replacing the original straw.
Now the time may come to replace the plastic straw, Vancouver has been the first major city in Canada to announce it will ban the use of plastic straws by the fall of 2019, and our Prime Minister made a proposal to the other G7 members during their meeting in June to take action in this same direction. Individual jurisdictions in Canada are expected to move to ban the straws too. The replacements? Well, natural ones from our own cereal harvests would be nice and would bring me some nostalgic memories, another natural substitute would be bamboo straws, but the most likely alternative would be made of treated paper. One thing is sure, shortly at your favourite bar you won’t find the ubiquitous plastic straw.