Do not be fooled: There is nothing eco-friendly about a silver straw

This is not necessary.
This is not necessary.
Image: AP Photo/Brian Bohannon
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You can’t use a plastic straw anymore without looking like an environmental libertine who doesn’t care about sea turtles. Everyone knows that. But please do not buy a silver straw.

I hesitate to even tell you that, lest you be insulted that I mistake you for the kind of person who would pay $375 for a sterling-silver twisty straw from Tiffany & Co., or $175 for a customizable silver sipper from jeweler Stephen Webster, or $325 for a set of brass-and-silver Miansai straws that have to be washed by hand with pipe cleaners. But we live in a world that sells $2,145 knockoffs of $0.99 Ikea totes and $1,000 silver soup cans that do not even come with soup, so just in case it needs saying: please do not buy a silver straw.

As concern grows about Earth’s mounting piles of plastic garbage (6.6 billion tons of unrecycled waste, at last count), plastic straws have fallen swiftly out of fashion. The UK will ban sales of single-use plastic straws next year; elsewhere on the planet, cities, states, and large companies like Starbucks have also moved to outlaw plastic straws.

The alternatives are grim. Marketers have pitched options made of glass (which shatter), paper (which are not fit for purpose), and actual straw (which paper and plastic drinking straws were designed to replace, and represent a huge backward step in progress).

The Financial Times hailed the fancy straw trend (paywall) recently in an article headlined “Sip a cocktail, save the planet.” This is a fallacy. There is nothing eco-friendly about a silver straw. For the $375 cost of a precious-metal bendy straw, you could purchase enough carbon offsets to cover two years’ worth of the average American’s carbon emissions. Buying a silver straw and congratulating yourself on helping the planet is like taking a private jet to an environmental summit.

Here is a better idea: Instead of buying yet another material object whose manufacture, packaging, shipping, and cleaning will consume resources and create waste, just don’t use a straw (as long as you’re physically able to do so). And whatever you do, please: do not buy a silver straw.