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19 May, 2018

The Last Straw

Back on December 24th I posted a blog on plastic shopping bags. You know the thin, easily torn, plastic bags that many retailers use to over package store purchases. Who hasn’t seen a shopper walk out of a store with six, eight, even ten of them at a time? Today the world has a major issue with discarded plastic filling up our fields, rivers and oceans. In the Pacific Ocean there is a garbage patch of floating plastic the size of Texas. My preference is for Toronto to follow the lead of cities like Boston, LA, San Francisco, Montreal and outright ban plastic bags, but I know that a stiff per bag charge would also be very effective. Hopefully the new city council that gets elected on October 22nd will attack the issue and not be frightened off like the city council of 2013.

On May 3rd Margret Atwood and Calvin Sandborn contributed an opinion piece to the Globe and Mail that suggested an action plan that is a lot broader than my recommendation to ban plastic bags: “Can Canada Reinvent the Plastic Economy”. In their article they wrote about how the world’s oceans are choking in plastic and how that plastic is breaking down into microparticles that are now being widely found in tap and bottle water. Atwood and Sandborn believe that Canada can do its part if our governments develop a national strategy that encompasses actions like regulating, reusing, banning; and replacing plastics. They conclude their G&M piece with this quote:

“our grandchildren’s right to a healthy ocean takes precedent over our right to consume and throw away”.

Recently the issue of disposable plastic straws has also come into the public’s consciousness. You know - the ones that seem to come with every drink whether you ask for them or not? In the U.S. they are included in drinks to the tune of 500 million plastic straws a day! Today some restaurants are nixing them while others are not automatically putting them in every drink. In California cities like Oakland and Berkeley are banning them. The UK plans to ban them, and Trudeau wants to discuss them at an upcoming G7 Summit. A recent cringe-worthy graphic YouTube video about a Sea turtle with a plastic straw up its nose has made the poor turtle the anti-plastic straw poster child that should convince us all to quit using them.

Now unlike plastic bags I am not quite ready to suggest we ban plastic straws, however Vancouver’s recent decision to ban straws next June makes me think that maybe we should be more aggressive. While we are thinking about it here are 4 short term suggestions:

  • restaurants should no longer automatically put them in a drink. Recently I had lunch in Toronto’s Soho House and that’s what they did.

  • the server should ask the patron if they wish to have a straw in their drink. A short elevator pitch on why they are asking would be nice.

  • restaurants switch to paper straws.

  • people commit to not using plastic straws. That’s easy to do for able bodied people but not possible for everyone. It’s also not easy to drink a smoothly without a straw. So, do what I do - keep a reusable metal straw in your car or in your purse.

Now every time you go to use a plastic disposable straw think of that poor turtle and maybe you can do without a straw in your drink.

For a better plastic-reduced Toronto

Richard

Passionate city builder

Note: I have attached my December post “Don’t Come Around Here No More” in case you missed it

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