An Open Letter To The Plastic Straw Ban

An Open Letter to the Plastic Straw Ban
By Dave Ferguson

I saw the turtle too.  You know the one: that sea turtle with its sad, almandine eyes wincing toothlessly as a researcher uses pliers to pull a plastic straw from deep within its nose, like a coke bender gone bad.  It made the rounds, went viral, and spawned you.  You swept the nation!  Millions of front teeth got mildly uncomfortable from iced tea.  But you’re bullshit. 

You have yet to shoulder your way through our island’s saloon doors, your 10-gallon hat low on your bloodshot eyes, your thumbs poised to pull back the six-shooter’s hammer and riddle every straw in sight with punctuation.  On this island you were precluded by your cousin, the Plastic Bag Ban.  Your cousin is bullshit, too. 

Wait, wait, don’t be mad!  Your jaw is clenching so let me tickle you for a second and relieve some of the pressure.  You mean well.  You really mean well.  The intentions behind you and the mindful and progressive people that give you life, are adorable.  You’re just astonishingly misguided.  And the people behind you are adorably blind. 

Imagine just how much plastic is already in our oceans – not to mention the stuff in our landfills, the stuff stacked on our shelves every single day and all of the damn stuff on its way to the oceans. You are like a flyswatter trying to stop a stampede of elephants.  You act as though the straw alone is compromising the delicate balance of nature.  A ban would tip the scales and we’d be on the road to recovery!

I’m not even going to tell you how much plastic is already just sitting here, thrown out or waiting to be thrown out.  Use your imagination: it was going full throttle by the ‘50s, and with each and every subsequent year, the output grew exponentially. We’re talking endocrine-disrupting, Bezos-knows-what chemicals leaching into our showers and drinking water, and for decades upon decades, no less.  Listen to me: we don’t even know what’s in most plastic.  That bears repeating: we DON’T KNOW.  Because it is proprietary to plastics companies.  And it all leaches into our waters, and we all drink it.     

Do you know how many sippy cups were pumped out last year alone?  And that’s just sippy cups.  Here’s a challenge: when going to the grocery store, don’t buy anything in a plastic container.  Now all you’re left with is apples and a fucking kumquat.  

During the halcyon days of the 90s, we were led to believe that recycling was the answer.  But that was just a clever shift of responsibility from the heartless psychopaths masquerading as corporations to the hapless consumer.  You’d be shamed if you were seen throwing a Sunkist bottle into the regular trash.  But here’s the rub: recycling doesn’t work!  Plastics can only be recycled, like, twice before the materials that make it plastic become too degraded to use.     

Now ALL of this could have been avoided if industry (ahem, big oil, ahem) hadn’t felt threatened by hemp, a miracle plant that had flourished, rightfully, until the unconscionable prohibition in the early 20th century.  Because hemp can do basically anything that oil can do.

There is hope on the horizon, despite my tone.  Speaking of hemp, it has officially been legalized once again.  Which is HUGE.  Equipment has been developed to clean the surface of the ocean (but then again, what the fuck do they plan to do with it?  Throw it “out” only to end up in the ocean again? It’s plastics public relations!). And a Japanese inventor has created a household appliance that converts plastic bags into fuel.  The innovations keep coming.  

Your head is down, your lip is quivering and you’re kicking pebbles in that aw-shucks way.  Buck up!  You’re not for nothing.  Don’t misunderstand.  I welcome you here, Plastic Straw Ban.  Our island welcomes you with open arms.  Get on your high horse and gallop over to Sharky’s, for starters.  But be sure to turn a blind eye to the shitty sharks stuffed with crayons they give kids to throw away only to end up in the throats of dolphins.  Ignore the plastic takeout containers, the plastic to-go cups, the plastic tubs of cheese, and the rest of it.

If you really wanted to sort things out for our kids, you’d stop making scapegoats of the frivolous and instead Ban Convenience.  Because that’s what plastic has really done: made things wildly convenient.  So much so that I’m not sure we’d collectively know what to do without it.  It would be difficult.  Difficult at first, but what isn’t?

Either that or you just get all Darwinian and adapt.  People in other countries are building houses and shit from old 7UP bottles alone.  Comfortable and convenient houses.  Maybe we can use all these scapegoated straws and start building a new kind of straw bale house on the Vineyard to address the gaping wound that is the housing crisis.  Or we can just find something else that’s been around for decades to scapegoat.  Like cars!  Fuck cars!  Who’s with me?