We Need to Talk About Paper Straws (A Short Essay)



It’s a strange time to be living in this world, if you like to drink from a straw.


For generations, we all agreed that plastic was the most effective and efficient material. Cheap to make. Did the job.


But things had to change. Various platforms made us all aware of the problem with plastics. They're everywhere we don't want them - in our oceans, our drainage systems, and in the stomachs of our sea life.


So we had to cut back on the plastics, and unfortunately straws were an easy target. Now, businesses everywhere fear displaying them. Supermarkets, restaurants, everyone. If you want a plastic straw, you need to know a guy.


Personally, I think we acted too hastily. Because we didn’t take the time to figure out what to do next. We just outlawed plastic straws and threw the baby out with the bathwater (which, by the way, is an alarming turn of phrase if you think about it). The baby would have to be completely submerged for you not to notice it was in the bath before throwing out said bathwater. And by that point you’ve already got a problem.


But the plastic straw was gone and we needed another answer. First, there was a big push for everyone to get reusable metal straws. That was never going to work. We don’t want to have to remember to carry around a straw, and nor do we want to taste metal every time we drink something. So that was out.


Then after some time, we arrived at the solution we’re all currently settling with. The paper straw. The decision making process seems akin to how they say dating and marriage works. You just get to the third option in your late 20’s and accept it despite its flaws.


Paper is the dumbest material it could have been. It disintegrates every time. And not only that. There’s no way to modulate the amount of liquid that comes through the straw by biting down on it a little bit. We have no control. We just get full flow with every sip.


And yet, no one will admit that there’s a problem. We’re just stubbornly pretending that we prefer paper straws, as if we don’t mind at all when we’re halfway through a slurpee and have to chew through soggy bits of paper to make it to the end.


It’s sad though, because woke culture advocates on so many issues. Climate change, asylum seekers, racism - the list goes on. The higher ups respond pretty much the same way to every proposed change. ‘We’re working internally on a strategy that we think will work for all stakeholders, so we can't do anything at the moment. But we appreciate your creativity.’ One day they must have seen the straw proposal come across their desk and jumped at an easy win to buy themselves some time.


And so, I can’t help but feel that the world is in this liminal straw space where no one is really comfortable with the current state of affairs, but we’re all too afraid to admit it.


But I’ve been thinking, and I believe I have a workaround solution. And it’s been staring us in the face this whole time. There is a way to make paper straws work. We just need to laminate them.