You may have seen the recent, terrifying video of a group of grad students trying to save a bleeding sea turtle from something jammed in its nostril. After a lot of struggling and trying to soothe the distressed reptile, they finally get the obstruction free. “Is it a straw?” you can hear Texas A&M student Christine Figgener asking as she films. “Don’t tell me it’s a freaking straw. Don’t fucking tell me it’s a freaking straw. That is just stupid.”
I can’t disagree with her reaction. The ocean has been polluted with a swirling shit patch of plastic double the size of Texas. With the right equipment, you can see the submerged island from space, an Atlantis made entirely of discarded Ikea, grocery store bags, clamshell packaging, and, yes, plastic straws. With nearly 12.7 million metric tons of plastic and counting surging into our planet’s water, what the hell are we still using plastic straws for?
Certainly we have better options. Maine’s Alex Bennett told the Portland Press Herald he was crowdfunding production on an organic rye drinking straw, packaged in compostable cellophane and recycled cardboard. For the truly eco-fashionable, there’s brand after brand of glass straw for you to choose from, endlessly reusable and sure to turn heads when you wave the waiter away on your next restaurant visit only to produce your personalized emerald drinking tube.
But what Big Straw doesn’t want you to think about is that maybe the answer to this problem isn’t building a better straw. Nature already did that when it built your beautiful face. Even if we make our straws Earth-friendly, we’re still going to have to expend the energy on packaging and shipping the little fuckers. Not to mention the sense of smug gratification you get sipping your mate tea will only distract you from the much bigger problem of plastic in the cups and plastic bags in the kitchens.
And yet the straw is worthless. Of all the utensils, the straw is the most ridiculously affected. For thousands of years, humanity managed to get liquid from source to mouth to belly without relying on a system of atmospheric pressure to do the suction for us. The only reason we had them to begin with is that the Sumerians wanted to drink their beer without lapping up the byproducts of fermentation. Brewing has come a long way since 3,000 B.C.
Have you been in a ski accident recently? Gotten your jaw broken in a street brawl? No? Put your mouth on the glass.
This is Milo Cress. He’s 9, and already the mastermind of a public information campaign called Be Straw Free. The onset of puberty is about to shock and terrify him and even he knows we don’t need these bullshit suck-crutches in our lives. U.S. Senators have thanked him. So do the turtles.