Reconciling My Guilt about Plastic Straws
For years, the environmental movement campaigned against plastic bag use. Now, it seems that they have moved onto a new source of refuse: plastic straws.
According to the website Simply Straws, the US alone uses about 500 million plastic straws each year. In the UK, straw use is also rampant. Straw Wars says that an average of 3.5 million McDonalds beverages are ordered in the UK every day, which means that just as many straws are being needlessly thrown into the trash.
Unlike plastic bags, straws rarely get reused. They aren’t even necessary to consume a beverage. So, it is no wonder that many UK bars and restaurants are jumping on the “straw ban”.
I consider myself a responsible consumer. I bring my own bags to the grocery store. I buy in bulk because it doesn’t come with extra packaging. Since my city has absolutely no recycling program, I minimize waste by reusing every plastic bottle I buy (which is rare) and convert my old pickle jars into storage containers.
But here is the problem: My 2-year old daughter LOVES straws.
On one hand, I know that I should boycott straws from our home to reduce waste and also ingrain conservationist values in my daughter.
On the other hand, I don’t want to take away something my daughter loves. Just imagine what your childhood would be like if you’d never had the pleasure of blowing milk bubbles through straw!
Unfortunately, the obvious solution to this problem – reusable straws – isn’t available in my country (Serbia). So, I try to reconcile my guilt by immediately washing out my daughters straws when she is done (if you wait to wash them, the beverage remnants get stuck inside). I only throw the straws away once they get really icky (if anyone has ideas for arts & crafts projects from old straws, please let me know!).
For me, this “straw dilemma” represents a bigger problem: How do we live responsible lives without removing ourselves from culture?
How, for example, do I raise a vegetarian child without having her feel left out at birthday parties?
How do I explain to a young child that she can’t have Barbie because Barbie represents an idealized, impossible depiction of women?
As humans, we have put ourselves in a situation where it is nearly impossible to live 100% responsibly towards the earth. So, we each have to pick and choose our battles. I will keep on giving my daughter straws to use, but reconcile my guilt by advocating for a recycling program in my city.