Ocean Friendly Restaurants kickoff (copy)

Diners at the Pickled Palate demonstrated that no plastic straws were necessary to enjoy iced tea and water. File/David Quick/Staff

People who know me just a little bit quickly realize I’m not a crusader and rarely latch on to causes. It’s just not my style and I’m much more comfortable watching from the wings while offering everyday observations that might produce a smile or a shared memory.

Today’s topic, though, veers a bit from the norm. As the Lowcountry continues to be such a destination location for people to live and visit, maybe it’s time our community joins a growing movement that attacks plastic pollution. Simplistically, it could be the last straw.

We’ve all been in restaurants where children at nearby tables laughingly sucked the final dregs from a drink. That noise and behavior is unmistakable.

But that’s not the reason America is attempting to ban the plastic straw. Though we all might be OK if that sucking sound was eliminated in the process.

Attempts to ban the plastic straw have much more to do with the amount of marine plastic pollution coupled with the amount of time it takes this product to decompose. Ocean wildlife is suffering, often from choking or strangulation.

Not-so-frantastic plastic

The paper straw was invented in 1888. In the 1960s, though, it was the plastic straw that that arrived to improve our ability to blow bubbles in our chocolate milk and drain our sodas and shakes to the last drop.

It was our fondness for convenience that has us where we are.

That, plus the fact that estimates currently tell us Americans use about 500 million straws every day.

The straw is not the true culprit, though. The straw is just the symbol of the plastic problem and a conversation starter. Sort of what stirs the drink, if you will.

Some cities are banning or taxing the use of plastic items like utensils, bottles and bags that are thrown away after one use. Instead of automatically delivering glasses with straws in the drink, some restaurants are providing straws only by request.

Starbucks has decided to replace its straws with a new lid. It’s said to resemble an adult sippy cup.

We’re a coastal city and a foodie haven. Why not be a leader in such a movement that cleans up beaches and protects marine life?

I understand that some people with life-changing medical issues need straws. A flexible, plastic straw is quite necessary for a stroke sufferer or someone battling MS.

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Why not us?

Have you ever seen one of those giant garbage patches floating in one of our oceans? Circular currents often corral such refuse as the bottles, fishing gear, bags, straws and wrappers all collect around each other. It’s not a very complimentary statement about us, as humans. We only see the surface. Scientists tell us there’s a great deal more on the ocean floor.

So what would saying to the waitress, “No straw, please,” really accomplish the next time your family gathers at a restaurant? Well, it offers a chance at some dialogue and self-awareness for starters.

Here in Charleston, with so many visitors and new restaurants opening every week, we have an even greater platform for making a statement.

A quote from Charles Edward Montague says, “There is no limit to what a man can do so long as he does not care a straw who gets the credit for it.”

There’s a lot of truth to that statement, though I admit the "straw" reference is not the drinking variety.

If we don’t do something because we feel the problem is hopeless or unattainable, then, in the end, we really are just grasping at straws.

Reach Warren at peperwarren@gmail.com

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