Say no to saving turtles

Jenesa Jeram
Insights Newsletter
3 August, 2018

Whenever a bartender enthusiastically asks me whether I want to save the turtles, I like to look them dead in the eyes and without hesitation say “no”.

Don’t get me wrong, turtles have never done anything to offend me personally.

But I know ‘saving turtles’ is code for saying no to plastic straws. And I cannot jump on this bandwagon.

There are practical reasons to celebrate plastic straws.

Expecting people to carry reusable metal straws with them is about as optimistic as expecting your colleagues to take home their Tupperware containers from the office kitchen.

Straws protect uncoordinated people from social disaster. Even in my most sober state I’m prone to spilling drinks on myself. Straws allow people like me to master the illusion of coolness and class.

Speaking of questionable coolness and class, bearded people are also at a disadvantage. Beards and frothy beers do not go together. These men need straws.

Paper straws are an inferior alternative. In fact, they should be deplored by public health campaigners for their contribution to binge drinking. Have you ever tried to drink slowly and responsibly with a paper straw? It is impossible. People will binge drink for fear of their straws disintegrating.

On a more serious note, for some with disabilities, straws are not a luxury but a necessity.

In New Zealand, opting out of straws is voluntary for now. But with official straw prohibitions popping up overseas, we cannot be complacent.

Violators of San Francisco’s straw ban could face a fine of up to $500. The Santa Barbara straw ban could punish repeat offenders with a fine of up to $1000 and at the steep end, six months in jail. Each straw counts as a separate violation, meaning the fines and jail time can add up quickly.

What the anti-straw lobby doesn’t tell you is that straws only contribute a tiny amount to the plastic waste in the ocean. Even advocates admit that the real value of the ban is to get consumers to think consciously about their “casual plastic use”.

Sorry to break it to you, but declining a straw with your next gin and tonic probably won’t save a turtle.

On the upside, at least a straw ban will give me the opportunity to set up a lucrative black market.

When the time comes, I’ll be the lady in the corner of the bar with a purse full of contraband plastic straws and single-use plastic bags.

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