Environmental protection vs. comfort: Surprisingly emotional topic: Why we still miss plastic straws so much

We humans are strange people.

Environmental protection vs. comfort: Surprisingly emotional topic: Why we still miss plastic straws so much

We humans are strange people. We know that something is wrong, but if the consequence of it is not immediately apparent, we can suppress it quite wonderfully. See climate crisis. We don't want to accept even the smallest inconvenience if the meaning is not immediately clear. One of these inconveniences appears to be the disappearance of plastic straws. At least that's how it seemed after stern published the small report that customs in Baden-Württemberg had confiscated 5,000 plastic drinking straws.

Since the summer of 2021, plastic straws have no longer been allowed to be sold in Germany and officially in the entire EU. Nevertheless, it surprised a lot of readers that customs actually dealt with the illegal stalks. Are drinking straws just as hot a commodity as cocaine or firearms? Like counterfeit branded goods or Siberian tiger fur? But while most of us can probably do without the latter things, straws are different for some reason. In any case, our little report caused a huge wave of reaction. Why?

I have to confess briefly. A while ago my husband and I were on vacation in Italy. One evening when we treated ourselves to a Limoncello Spritz in a restaurant on the terrace overlooking the sea, it was actually served to us with a plastic straw. We looked at each other in surprise, astonishment, with a strange light in our eyes. "Oh, look," I said. “Plastic straws!” Awestruck and irrationally delighted, we sipped our drink and were reminded of something like a better time.

Later, when we drove from one southern Italian city to another, we stared helplessly at the mountains of rubbish that were piling up on the edge of the streets. Almost everywhere. Yes, this certainly doesn't have anything specifically to do with the use of drinking straws (and certainly nothing to do with the mafia), but isn't it hypocritical to be angry about unnecessary and incorrectly disposed of garbage and environmental pollution on the one hand, and so much on the other to enjoy a banal luxury like drinking from a plastic tube?

I think most of us agree that it makes sense to reduce single-use plastic products as much as possible. In the case of plastic bags in the supermarket, this actually worked well: we now almost always remember to pack a jute bag when we go shopping. And if we forget it, we just spend a few cents on a paper bag. Doesn't hurt anyone and is easy to implement in everyday life.

As absurd as it may seem, things seem to be different with straws. And yes, there are reasons for that. At the latest when someone sips their drink and the paper straw suddenly feels unpleasantly floury and wilted in their mouth, they start to question the more environmentally friendly alternatives. Paper straws may look cute - like a 1950s milk bar - but they're just not practical.

Reusable straws made of glass or stainless steel certainly don't soften and last forever, and they do their job - but somehow the "feeling", which can hardly be described more concretely, is not the same. Plus, you immediately regret any absent-minded chewing on the thing that works so well with plastic straws when it comes to unyielding hard glass and steel... ouch.

That left macaroni. They work, but at some point they become a little weaker - and they simply have too many carbohydrates.

Can't we banish any other plastic product and replace it with more environmentally friendly material? Electrical appliances, toys, kitchen utensils? And allow straws again wherever their correct recycling is guaranteed and monitored and there are no oceans, green spaces or nature reserves nearby? Yes, it makes no sense at all, but these stupid plastic stalks occasionally give us a surprising bit of quality of life that is especially useful in times like these.

Does anyone remember how you could, for example, suck one of those heartily unhealthy, sugary, thick milkshakes from a popular fast food restaurant through those thick straws? That was 20 minutes of pure bliss. And no, I recently tried it again after years. Unfortunately, it's just not the same with a paper straw.

By the way: Dear readers who value the correct terminology - yes, we know that officially it is not called "straw" but "drinking straw". But do you use this term in everyday life? We neither.