The Last Straw on Plastics

“I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth.” –Pete Townshend

| By Amelia Stolarz |

Our plastic consumption certainly has become a hot-button topic.

Recently, some major corporations have gotten the memo about the trending feelings on plastic. Straws may be becoming taboo.

  • Starbucks, Aramark and American Airlines announced that they will stop offering straws.
  • McDonald’s said it will reduce its straw distribution.
  • Hashtags like #SkiptheStraw are going viral, and some people are pledging to give them up for good.
  • Entire cities are even banning straws.

Just think of the amount of plastic used on straws alone. Take one restaurant in your city. They usually give at least one straw to each customer. Multiply that by the number of restaurants in your city, then by the number of cities in your state, then by the number of states and you get the picture of straws used in just one day in the U.S.

It’s mind boggling to think about, but the average American uses more than 38,000 straws in their lifetime. Yet if offered the choice, 50 to 80 percent of customers would decline a straw, reports the National Park Service.

I’ve tried asking for my beverage sans the straw, but the habit is so ingrained in the wait staff, it always comes out with the straw…until yesterday at Outback Steakhouse when my husband ordered his beverage without ice and I added that I’d have mine without the straw. The server was clearly delighted and said no one has asked that before.

I’m already seeing some progress. Last week, I was at two different restaurants that used paper straws. Hooray for them. A recent newspaper article told of a Florida restaurant using pasta as straws (Celiacs beware). I love it.

The next time you order a beverage at a restaurant, ask for it without the straw and let us know what happens.

Of course, straws aren’t the only problem.

Years ago, the exit question at my favorite grocery store was, “Paper or plastic?”

The best answer would be… neither.

When plastic bags first were introduced at grocery stores, many customers resisted, so they gave us the courtesy of a choice.

It’s estimated that a trillion plastic bags are used each year across the globe, and under 5 percent are recycled, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that plastic bags sneak into your home.

Here are some ideas on how you can reuse those bags:

  • Corral the clear plastic bags that newspapers are delivered in into an empty tissue box. Use them to dispose of dirty diapers or pick up after your pet.
  • The plastic bags that fruits and veggies are gathered into in the market make good small wastepaper basket liners.
  • Ziploc-type bags that have been used for food can be rinsed and re-used to cover kitchen faucets when working on a messy cooking project. Use them as a plastic glove when polishing silver or other messy projects. Or use to gather items around the garage or house that need corralling, such as nails or paper clips.

I am conscience about my plastic consumption. But it is a work in progress.

Sometimes when I go to a restaurant and anticipate leftovers, I tuck my own container into my purse and feel better about leaving the disposable containers behind – a small gesture, but we need to start somewhere.

After all, Americans eat out a lot and take home a lot of leftovers. We’ve been spending more money dining out than at home every year since 2014, says the US Department of Agriculture.

It seems as though over the last 60 years almost all packaging has been converted to plastic:

  • Toothpaste used to come in a metal tube.
  • Stores sold sodas in glass bottles on which customers paid a deposit; customers later returned the empty bottles for a cash refund.
  • Products like toilet paper and cotton balls were packaged in paper.
  • Yogurt was in paper cups.
  • Berries were in paper containers.
  • Lunch was carried to school in a metal lunchbox with a metal thermos lined in glass.
  • Straws were made of paper.

I think we tried to save a tree and planted a plastic jungle instead.

What are your thoughts on plastic? Share your tips with us!

Remembering The Graduate:

Hot button
: an emotional, usually controversial issue or concern that triggers immediate intense reaction

13239220_868867996558951_5623648985723637852_nAmelia Stolarz is a lifelong organizing guru, an avid gluten-free baker and a Certified Public Accountant.

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