Grasping at Straws: Reusable straws trend may raise awareness but won’t make lasting impact in the greater scheme of environmental issues

Grasping at Straws: Reusable straws trend may raise awareness but won’t make lasting impact in the greater scheme of environmental issues

Da-Hyun Hong

I don’t own a reusable straw; please don’t shun me. When the video of a plastic straw being pulled out of a turtle’s nose went viral on social media, using metal straws became a trend. More and more videos of YouTubers, Instagram Influencers and TikTok users sticking their collapsing reusable straws into a cup, usually accompanied by the caption “save the turtles,” would appear on my feed. I understand the importance of being environmentally conscious, but buying a set of metal straws doesn’t seem like an enduring solution.

The first time I realized this plastic straw-hating concept was more than just a temporary trend was when I walked into a Starbucks in Orlando, Fla., over the summer. I immediately noticed all the iconic green, plastic straws had been replaced with paper ones, as well as nitro lids. It was clear Starbucks was making a conscious effort toward providing more environmentally friendly products.

I’ve seen nitro lids around Carmel as well, but I’ve yet to see paper straws become the norm in most local stores. To be honest, they aren’t ideal for most Starbucks drinks. Although I respect the attempt to help the environment, the paper straws are too flimsy; the sharp edges of the hole where you insert the straw cuts into the material and causes the straw to bend or break, especially once the paper gets soggy from your beverage. I find myself needing to take an extra to replace the original one after 15 minutes.

According to Starbucks’ news website, which I did not know existed, the new lids “[use] 9% less plastic than the former lid and straw combined.” Other reports, however, say the opposite that the lid and cup weight is less plastic than the new lids by mass. However, just because the store provides this option doesn’t mean all customers’ preferences will change. I’ve noticed some customers either don’t understand the purpose of the new lids or don’t actually want to use them correctly. I have witnessed countless people putting a plastic straw into their nitro lid, completely defeating the environmental purpose of the design.

I think it’s wonderful that people are using social media platforms to spread the message of environmental awareness. However, as the internet tends to do, this concept is taken too far at times. I’ve seen multiple apologies from influencers after they were essentially bullied for using a plastic straw, which is ridiculous. Most times, people just forget to carry them around or waiters in restaurants are trained to bring straws along with your drink. The reality is, although the internet’s mindset towards plastic straws may have changed, the real world is much slower to adjust to the change.

I’m not trying to say this whole “banning plastic straws” movement is pointless, but until the city of Carmel bans plastic straws like New York City and Seattle, most stores will continue to provide them and customers will continue to use them.

Last but not least, how am I supposed to stab my boba cup with a collapsible straw?

The views in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the HiLite staff. Reach Da-Hyun Hong at [email protected].