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Ban plastic straws

Belated Earth Day greetings!

When we were kids the straw that was used for sipping drinks from a bottle or glass was made of paper. Before throwing the straw into the trash, sometimes we would toss it in the air, catch it with the thumb and forefinger and start pressing it while saying, yes, no, yes, no to a question begging for an answer. One kept at it until the end of the straw was reached and there was nothing more to press. The lovelorn would openly

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mutter, he/she loves me, he/she loves me not, and so on. The end of the straw answered the question. You can’t do that on a plastic straw because it retains its shape even when pressed, and there is nothing to show for your effort to find an answer.  Kid stuff, yes, but I wish those paper straws would make a comeback.

I do not remember when paper straws were replaced by plastic. Straws, the plastic variety, are a scourge to Planet Earth. Now we see that these small, seemingly insignificant items are causing so much havoc that many people all over the world are waging campaigns to ban them. “The last straw” is no longer just a figure of speech; it is, literally speaking, a cry, a call, that we may see the last of them.

Earth Day (last Sunday, April 22) came and went and we are still on page Boracay. The cleanup and rehab work have to do with the island’s capacity overload and the wanton disregard for environmental regulations, what with wayward structures and faulty human and kitchen waste disposal. It’s the same in other beach resorts now under scrutiny.

For Boracay habitues, there is a project called “The Last Plastic Straw” under the Plastic Pollution Coalition. It is foreign-based but its call is worldwide. It wants us to know that in the United States alone, over 500,000 plastic straws are used each day. “In only the past 20 years, people have come to expect plastic straws in every drink, in an example of extreme waste being generated for minimal convenience. These short-lived tools are usually dropped into a garbage can with no further thought, instantly becoming a source of plastic pollution.”

In our own congested cities, we see them strewn about, along with the plastic bags that held the drink bought from sari-sari stores or sa malamig vendors. I’ve seen these being thrown out of vehicles and into the street. After a sudden strong downpour, you see these being swept into the drains and clogging the drains’ strainers. Along with them are sharp barbecue sticks, rags, plastic cups, juice drink foil containers, candy wrappers, plastic water bottles, balloons, cigarette butts, etc. The huge ones — floating sofas, broken plastic chairs and folding beds, no kidding — are another story.

But the small ones — plastic straws, stirrers, cups and small drink pouches — are the ones that easily get swept into the rivers and seas and swallowed by marine creatures that die untimely deaths.

Some of our cities have ordinances on plastic bags. In Quezon City you bring your own grocery/shopping bags or pay extra if you need plastic ones. (Cardboard boxes are free in groceries.) So why not ban plastic straws in fast-food joints and make them use paper ones instead? Why not ban the manufacture and sale of these plastic items?

At the personal level, one can do something. Here are some suggestions from The Last Plastic Straw that I tweaked a bit (calling EcoWaste Coalition).

Make a personal commitment to say no to plastic straws.  Encourage your friends and family to do the same. Want to make an impact? Bring your own reusable (fancy) straw, and start a conversation.

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Reach out to food joints and ask them to give plastic straws only upon request. Or leave informational cards when you settle your bill.

Encourage eateries to make a change to nonplastic-straw options.

Host a screening of “STRAWS The Film” in your community to start a wave of change.

To find out more about the “No Plastic Straw Pledge” visit https://takeaction.oceanconservancy.org/page/9195/petition/1?ea.tracking.id=17WAXAWXXX. Help keep our oceans plastic-free! #skipthestraw. You can download “STRAWS the Film” for group screenings.

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TAGS: Earth Day, Human Face, Ma. Ceres P. Doyo, plastic pollution, plastic straws
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