Florida relies on its tourist industry as one of the major draws. The cleanliness of our beaches is a strong selling point. If we have plastic litter, it detracts from the beaches’ appeal. Plastic straws make up a significant portion of the litter we find on our beaches. We have also seen pictures on the web of a plastic straw stuck up the nose of a sea turtle.
We don’t need plastic straws. In fact, not long ago we had only paper straws. While paper straws might be a few cents more expensive, they do not leave a lasting footprint on the planet. The problem with plastic straws is that they don’t decompose out in the environment, and they don’t recycle. Some restaurants simply put a plastic straw in every drink, others toss the straws on the table whether they are wanted or not, leaving it to the person cleaning the table to toss them out if not used. Plastic from a plastic straw comes from oil and gas development such as fracking. If we don’t want increased oil and gas usage, we need to reduce the use of plastic straws.
Some people feel straws are more hygienic, but the reality is that a straw does not meet any government standard for hygiene, and that if you fear drinking from a cup at a restaurant, then would you trust the kitchen at that restaurant? I would say a good, clean restaurant will have clean glasses to drink from, and you don’t need a plastic straw for hygiene. For those who wish to have a straw, there are now bamboo, metal and glass straws that you can purchase and carry with you. They come with cleaning kits so you can keep them clean.
SB 588, under consideration by lawmakers in Tallahassee, would place a five-year suspension on municipalities’ banning straws, pending a study from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Plastic straw bans are not really bans, they simply require the server to provide straws only upon request.
Drew Martin, Lake Worth
Editor’s note: Mr. Martin is the conservation chair of the Sierra Club’s Loxahatchee Group.