Bad Idea: Paper StrawsOn the straw man of sustainability.

Bad Idea: Paper StrawsOn the straw man of sustainability.

  • Words Ed Cumming
  • Photograph Patti McConville / Alamy

Plastic straws have long been portable reminders of the destruction we wreak on the environment. From roughly the 1960s until a couple of years ago—depending on where in the world you live—every take-out drink came with one. Some drinks, such as Capri Sun, included a tiny plastic straw as part of the product—one end cleaved to a sharp point with which to puncture the pouch. When finished, the straw was thrown away with the receptacle.

These straws—with a half-life of four million years—contributed to the more than eight million tons of plastic that enter Earth’s waterways every year. They were ugly. They often came individually wrapped in paper, like tiny mouth syringes. More importantly for the fate of plastic straws, they were optional: For most people, a straw is not esse...

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