I want to help save the environment. As a big believer in recycling, I was upset when the Town of Oyster Bay halted its weekly curbside pickup of glass. Although the town provided us with several recycling pods, the problem is—unfortunately, people are inherently lazy slobs, myself included.
In subways and public parks, virtually anywhere there are trash cans, you will find people who don’t care enough to walk 10 feet to use them. How can there be trash on the side of the Southern State Parkway if people aren’t tossing it out their windows?
At Disney World, the self-proclaimed “Happiest Place on Earth,” trash cans are placed no more than 30 feet apart. Yet they have employees assigned only to pick up trash that somehow doesn’t make it into the receptacles. How is that even possible?
Last year, the shoppers of Suffolk County learned to live without plastic bags for their purchases unless they were ponying up a nickel for each one. There was a lot of complaining at first, but most people either gave in and bought reusable bags or spent five cents. How else do you get a shopping cart full of groceries home?
I’m happy to report that getting takeout food in a container not made of Styrofoam or clear plastic has made no difference in my quality of life. To this day, I still don’t know what Styrofoam is made of, but I do understand that it will last well into the next century before degrading.
However, I’m drawing the line at paper straws. Are we really saving the environment by transitioning from plastic to paper straws?
I’m here to tell you that paper straws stink. Paper and liquids do not mix; they never have. There isn’t a kitchen in America that doesn’t have paper towels to wipe up liquid spills. Technology developed a vastly superior straw out of plastic. Straws made from paper have a limited lifespan when immersed in liquid.
People don’t usually put paper in their mouths. When you first use them, the dry paper sticks to your wet lips—it’s just science, dear readers. And the longer you use them, the worse they get.
In addition to lasting long after the ice in your drink has melted, plastic straws are versatile. Many people tend to munch mindlessly on a plastic straw or chew one end flat to use it as a toothpick. Paper straws just turn to mush.
Besides, what are we going to do with the billions of plastic straws still unused? My sister-in-law works in the cafeteria for the Copiague School District. They switched to paper straws when the kids returned from the holiday break. When asked what to do with the hundreds of boxes of plastic straws they still had, they were told to, wait for it, throw them out. How is THAT saving the environment? Of course, here on Long Island, they can’t be recycled because we have to separate the paper from the plastic. Who are they going to pay to remove the plastic straws from their paper wrappers?
I wasn’t prepared when they served me a paper straw with my club soda at Lilly Flanagan’s in December. Do we have to carry our own personal straws with us when we go out? Do we have to start hoarding them, like incandescent light bulbs?
What about the ever-popular Flexi-straw? They haven’t been able to manufacture a paper straw that bends yet, have they?
I’ll let you in on a secret. Amazon sells plastic Flexi-straws for pennies on the dollar. Who knows, investing in Flexi-straws now may not help save the environment, but maybe it can put a few dollars in your pocket?
Besides, how are you supposed to drink out of your plastic Poland Spring water bottle while you’re lying down on the couch?
Paul DiSclafani, a Massapequa resident, is a 2018 Press Club of Long Island award-winning columnist and an Anton Media Group contributor since 2016.