For many people using a straw is a novelty. Something that livens up a drink in a pub, makes a cocktail more fun, allows you to drink a thick milkshake without getting a moustache. Anyone remember being a kid and purposefully trying to get a shake/Ribena moustache? No. Maybe that’s another thing from my weird childhood. Anyway a straw is primarily an accessory to glam up your beverage.
For some though, including myself, a straw is a necessity. Some people, for whatever reason cannot drink without the aid of a straw.
Many moons ago I too could (just about) drink a tea without a straw. The progression of SMA has meant that since quite a young age I have struggled to hold a cup. To lift it that is.
Sometimes, now, I can’t even lift a cup at all, if it’s not the right cup, or not the right day.
It can be a bit like having a workout for me. Having a drink. Imagine holding something you can only just lift. With two hands. I don’t know… a small child. That to me is the weight equivalent to my mug of tea.
Once holding this cup there is no chance that I would be able to lift it to the height of my mouth, tilt it at the correct angle, and get any in my mouth. So instead I use some kind of human arm (my arms) balancing system to pivot the cup up just about high enough to suck on a straw.
That’s if the cup is light enough, the table high enough, and me powerful enough.
If not I need assistance to position the cup in my hands, or even hold it in order for me to suck on the straw.
This all works as well as it currently can.
Here’s the issue. Straws as we know them are an environmental hazard. Bars, restaurants and cafes are giving them away as if they have an ever replenishing straw mountain out back. We are automatically served them in soft drinks, shakes, frappes, smoothies, juices. One cocktail can contain a minimum of two straws. One straight, one bent, seems to be the ‘thing’.
These straws may well be ever replenishing, but they certainly aren’t magical enough to just disappear. They need to go somewhere…..
‘500 million straws are used in the US alone every day. Which could fill over 127 school buses each day’
Plastic straws are the most washed up item on beaches, along with cotton wool tips.
We don’t want a straw landslide in twenty years time.
Plastic straws are too small to efficiently recycle.
It’s obvious something has to be done. But what?
You may have heard about #LastStraw, all the celebs have been getting involved.
There are petitions all over the internet trying to get bars to stop giving out plastic straws or to ban them all together.
The issue is, some of us can’t function without straws. There doesn’t need to be plastic, but there does need to be straws.
I have a confession to make.
I carry plastic straws and cutlery (this is a whole different debate) around in my handbag at all times. In case there are none available or I need to drink from a bottle on the go. Without these I am unable to eat and drink independently.
Imagine having someone try to tip fluid into your mouth, guessing how much to pour and how much you can handle. They go a little too quick, you dribble a bit. Not enough, you’re a bit like a fish. It’s a bit hot, ouch. Imagine all this out in public too, when you’re with friends, or at a meeting, a show, a fancy restaurant. You get the picture. Straws are an important, crucial part of my daily life.
I am fully aware that the world is becoming filled with plastic and I agree something needs to be done. Maybe a different use of materials. I don’t know.
There are other straws out there. Plastic isn’t the only way.
I’ve tried those paper straws before, have you? Ive mostly had them out in cute little cafes. They come in all sorts of colours and patterns, can be very pretty, and are quite fashionable, but also extremely useless. Especially if you use them for hot drinks. They go all floppy and mushy. I’ve also been served them in cocktails, where it’s gone soft before I get to the end. (Perfect for a papier mache project). I must admit they look the part, and are a step up from plastic, environmentally, I think, but what about forestation? I don’t know.
I was gifted some silicone straws for Christmas as I had mentioned I’d seen some around. I’ve used them at home a few times, they come with a pipe cleaner type gadget and can go in the dishwasher.
The ones I have (I’m unsure of the brand/manufacturer as they were a gift) seem very wide, quite a lot different in size to your common plastic straw. Wobbly, bouncy, not very sturdy and a little top heavy. It’s quite a weird feeling to suck on, maybe that’s why at first I started to dribble a little. Sorry TMI! I am getting the hang of it, but it’s plastic for me in public at the moment!
Although relatively easy to clean with the gadget provided, I’m still not sure I’d want to share them with a bar full of people.
The silicone does have a slight washing up liquid taste for the first use after cleaning.
Good points are that they do have a bend in them unlike paper straws. They are good for the environment as far as I’m aware, although maybe not as hygienic. And the larger width would work well for soup. Yes I drink soup with a straw.
There are glass straws available that are quite pricey but look rather elegant. I’m not sure I’d want to drink through glass, would you?
To see what others thought, how they perceived the straw, and how they imagine we could solve this problem and possible straw landslide, I ran two polls on Twitter.
Now I’m a little restricted here by the limits of Twitter, I could only have 4 voting options, and everyone is an individual with individual thoughts and needs.
Also this was just a bit of fun really, I’m just curious, I’m no expert.
I had an overwhelming amount of interaction, I expected maybe 3-5 friends to respond, mainly because I’d asked them to!
The results are in.
Firstly I wanted to know peoples relationship with the straw.
The voting was much closer than I had expected to be honest, with ‘Bars should ask’ being only slightly in the lead. I wasn’t surprised that second place was people wanting straws to be banned. The usage of plastic has been in the media a lot recently and is a major problem. And let’s be honest not many people do actually need a straw.
Yes straws do make drinks fun, I agree. But pollution and animal welfare isn’t.
That a few people actually think straws should always be provided did puzzle me a little.
I also wanted to see what materials people thought might make for a good straw.
Yes more than one person suggested we stick with plastic… I’m not judging. I don’t know what we should do.
The very slight majority thought paper straws are a good idea. You’ve read my personal thoughts on this. But maybe they’d be better for quick or cold drinks. Maybe a step up anyway.
Silicone isn’t a bad idea, for personal use anyway.
Something else… but what?
Here are some comments made on my Twitter Polls. To read more head over to my page.
‘They are clear, disposable and made of corn starch I think. Looks and feels like plastic.’
‘Would be great if there were more alternatives readily available but we mustn’t vilify plastic as paper isn’t as robust for those who chew and reusable may not be possible for various reasons, inc hygiene. We should get better at recycling plastic then less of an issue!’
‘The corn strarch suggestion on your other post sounds interesting though!? If that could be mass produced perhaps that would be a viable alternative?’
A quote from Amicos, a bar in London, on Instagram –
‘At @amicosbar we are looking into everyway to help the environment… one area are disposables within the bar. Besides us using Straws made from Straw we are also addressing the usage of Tea Light Candles in bars and restaurants. We are reusing our citrus fruit as natural candles and the wick itself filled with vegetable oil to replace the generic tea light candles and or other variants.’
I haven’t tried these straw straws, but I do plan on giving these and other alternatives a go.
I think that’s enough for one day and one blog post. My mind is buzzing, I don’t know about yours!
As things stand I’m persevering with the silicone straws at home, doing my bit where I can to save the planet. I’m still carrying plastic straws around in my handbag, and I still ask for a straw if I’m offered in bars and restaurants.
What can we/I do? What’s the next step?
I say that to stop giving out straws willy-nilly is a start. Use other materials where possible.
If other materials were in higher demand they will become cheaper, that’s the way it works.
To be continued…..