Your plastic straw is not the problem

Mills Sparkman

The morning started out like any other.

I stopped at the University Marche on my way to class to get my usual: an everything bagel with cream cheese and an iced coffee.

Normally, I would fill up my reusable tumbler, but I decided it needed a wash and left it in my room.

I went for a plastic cup instead and was ready to pay when I realized I didn’t have a straw.

I asked the cashier where the straws were.

“Oh, we don’t use straws anymore,” she said. “They’re bad for the environment, you know.”

Like I’m the jerk.

It’s time we faced up to the real problem here.

People using plastic straws in their drinks aren’t causing the trash buildup in the oceans.

The real culprits are, unfortunately, not so easily patrolled.

I’m that friend who brings reusable bags to the supermarket.

I use EcoWare at Brennan’s instead of the cardboard takeout container.

I have a tumbler, a thermos and a reusable water bottle, all BPA-free, all of which I use often.

It’s always a good idea to reduce your plastic use and be environmentally conscious.

Small changes do have a ripple effect.

However, it’s hard to believe your impact will make a difference in the long run when big corporations are canceling your good deeds out.

Multinational corporations like Coca-Cola produce tons of waste daily, creating, packaging and shipping their products.

An Oct. 19 Greenpeace article stated that during a worldwide ocean cleanup, the top three sources of plastic were just three mass-producing food suppliers: Nestle, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.

Misplacing the blame is more than just incorrect. It’s actually harmful.

When people don’t know the true source of a problem and accept a false explanation, the problem will grow unchecked until it’s impossible to fix.

If we want to solve the problem of plastic waste and pollution as a whole, it’s imperative that we know where blame really lies. After that, we can work together to move forward and find an appropriate solution.

Your plastic straw would make up a tiny fraction of all the plastic in the ocean.

It might make you feel good to use a metal straw, but here are some things that could make a bigger difference.

For example, cancel your Amazon Prime subscription.

Amazon uses an enormous amount of fuel, underpaid labor and plastic to get you that package in two days.

Be aware of who represents you.

Vote for environmentally friendly politicians who support holding companies accountable for their waste.

Some environmentally conscious politicians include Senator Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island, Senator Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts and Vermont State Senator Chris Pearson.

Don’t just vote in the midterms and presidential elections, either: vote at at the local, state and national levels.

Lend a hand. Volunteer to clean up parks, oceans or green spaces near you.

And most importantly, spread the word about to your family and friends.

A metal straw won’t save the ocean.

A sustained movement that faces the facts, sees the problem and demands environmental justice will.