The drinking straw is the most wasteful product in America

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Why? Bert Kaufman

Is this seat taken? Thanks.

Hey, I don't mean to pry, but I couldn't help noticing you're drinking with a straw. Two, actually, those tiny bar ones that don't give you more than a sip at a time.

You ever wonder why we drink from straws? We've got a hand, and a jaw, and a mouth. So what's the straw for? I didn't ask for a straw. You didn't ask for a straw, did you? No one here did.

I used to have a regular coffee shop. Every day I'd get the same thing, a medium cold press, the legal equivalent of starting your morning by snorting lines off your desk.

I'd grab my drink and leave the straw on purpose, so they could take it back and give it to the next schmuck who can't figure out how to get liquid beyond his big dumb teeth.

After a while, the baristas picked up on it and stopped giving them to me. When a new one started, and tried to give me a straw, one of the others would lean in and say, "Oh, Mike doesn't need a straw." People in line would stare as if I'd done something weird.

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I wanted to grab them by their shoulders and shake 'em. "None of you people need straws! What's wrong with your mouth?"

I was like a character in the The Twilight Zone, the last sane person on an Earth populated by people with microchips in their brains, controlled by the plastics industry. They can't drink without tunneling it into their throat like sewage in a drainpipe.

Hey, bartender, how about another round for me and my friend here? No straws. Thanks.

Look, I've heard some people say this is a guy thing, like I think I'm somehow too masculine to use a straw. That's not it. It's not that I'm so insecure I won't wrap my lips around something and suck on it in public. That came out wrong.

It's about being a grownup. A responsible adult, perfectly capable of gulping the beverage of my choice without the help of modern science.

Know who loves drinking straws? Sarah Palin. Look it up. When she does a speaking gig, she insists they put bendy straws at the podium. She ought to ask them to leave a speech up there for her, too.

Mariah Carey? She wants a whole box of them backstage.

The straw is a diva's accessory. It's the tool of she who wouldn't deign to let her lips touch a glass.

Bartender? Couple more, if you please. And spare us the little tubes being foisted on us by Big Straw.

All I'm saying is think about it. There's a plant in Virginia kicking out 4 billion straws every year. Another in Canada's doing 5 billion. And for what? Americans use 500 million of these little abominations a day.

Then they get shipped to the landfill, where they'll confuse the raccoons for the next 1,000 years.

And once it's out of your sight, it lasts forever. You use a straw for 20 minutes, and the repercussions go on for 50 generations to come. It's like a broken condom. Maybe 15 minutes. Depends on the day.

Sometimes the easiest problem to solve is literally right under your nose.

I'm not alone on this. My buddy, he went to London, and he says the swankiest joints are ditching the straw. You can ask for it, and Nigel will fetch you one posthaste. But they're putting it on you to ask. And who's going to say, "Pardon me, garcon, but I'm experiencing difficulty lifting this little cup of water to my mug?" Mariah Carey, maybe. But not me.

There's this kid Milo, out in Colorado, who tried starting a movement. He says, "Hey, you idiot grownups, how come we need straws at all?" And what does he get? Lip service.

The governor declares a "Straw Free Day." Then the next day they say, "Hey, nice try, kid. Now please stand back while I try to get this Frappuccino through a plastic hose."

Know what I say? I say a child will lead them.

You don't even suck the drink through a straw. You suck air out, and that changes the pressure inside the glass, and the stuff in the glass gets shoved up the straw and into your gullet.

If we were pressured to not use straws, instead of pressured to use them, then physics takes over, and we all get sucked up into a new, straw-free future, where—

Hey! Where are you going? You left your drink!

Barkeep, looks like it's just you and me. I suppose I should have one more and call it a night.

How come no one ever sits at this end of the bar? 

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