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AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Get this man a straw!

Donald Trump’s latest weapon in the culture wars: a red plastic straw

Jenni Avins
By Jenni Avins

global lifestyle correspondent

People feel strongly about straws, and US president Donald Trump is here to capitalize on that.

“Liberal paper straws don’t work,” tweeted Trump’s campaign on Thursday (July 18), with a link to purchase a pack of 10 red plastic straws emblazoned with Trump’s name for $15. If you think all that’s outrageous about a $1.50 plastic straw is the price, think again.

For environmentalists, plastic straws have become a potent symbol for the toxic and persistent scourge of single-use plastic—an everyday item that can be easily eliminated from use, not unlike the plastic bag. And while the Ocean Conservancy has found plastic straws to be consistently in the top 10 discarded items contributing to the millions of pounds of ocean trash it collects, they have sucked up outsize attention. Maybe that’s because the straw debate has it all: an excruciating video of a sea turtle with a four-inch (10 cm) straw stuck in its nostril, celebrity champion Adrien Grenier, splashy announcements from mega-corporations such as Starbucks, bans in liberal hotbeds such as Malibu and Seattle, and now, the world’s most powerful troll. Adding more complexity is the fact that some people with disabilities need flexible straws in order to drink. And that a British woman was horrifically killed in November, when she fell and was impaled by a metal straw fixed in a glass.

There is no denying that single-use plastic straws litter our world’s oceans. But Trump is wrong to politicize the inadequacy of paper straws as a replacement. It’s something we can all agree on, as Quartz’s Corinne Purtill wrote in 2018, in a completely apolitical post: Paper straws, she wrote, are “like carrying water home in a paper boat made by a child. They are like transporting rice in a fishing net.”

And while the Trump campaign seems to be attempting to bait liberal environmentalists, there’s a wrinkle in these plastic straws: They are touted online as reusable and recyclable.