Photo by Dave Gough via Wikimedia

Bar Code

The Problem With Cocktail Straws

And the organizations that are doing something about it.

Cocktail straws suck. That’s not just a bad play on words; it’s a very real feeling born of years and years of dealing with them and seeing them go to waste in vast quantities every night. At first, my issue with straws was that they rarely serve a purpose. Most drinks are easier to drink and more enjoyable right from the glass; in fact, often you can better smell (and thus taste) the drink if you get your nose right in there.

Also, most plastic straws are flimsy and break easily. I’ve had a nice time drinking a mint julep or other muddled drink out of a metal straw designed for that purpose, but that’s obviously an affectation in which only certain bars can indulge. Beyond that it’s hard to find many common cocktails that truly require a straw, except in service to tradition. Plus, quite often men and women are treated differently; servers and bartenders will far more often put a straw in my wife’s drink than in mine, even if we order the same thing.

The best argument against straws, though, is that they are an environmental disaster. While I’ve never taken an official census, I’d guess that about half of the straws I put into drinks are immediately removed and discarded. Multiply that by all the drinks served in my restaurant—or in Seattle, or globally every day—and the amount of waste is staggering. That much plastic sitting in landfills would be bad enough, but a shocking amount eventually makes its way into the ocean, harming wildlife and generally causing havoc.

That’s why it was exciting to learn that much of Seattle will go strawless in September. Major institutions like Sea-Tac Airport, the Seattle Mariners, and the Seattle Seahawks have all signed on, as have leading restaurateurs, including Tom Douglas and Renee Erickson. It’s hard to know at this point what the public response will be when straws are not automatically handed out, but Seattle’s willingness to embrace a wide range of inconveniences for the sake of the environment has been demonstrated before. Plus, the venues I spoke to all mentioned that alternatives will be available upon request. That’s not to say that those alternatives are perfect; all have issues. Compostable straws tend to dissolve over time, as do paper straws (only quicker). Metal straws are great, but obviously far more expensive, and thus their loss or theft is more consequential. Straws should still have a place in the world, but for the sake of that world, we should make it a far more limited one. ZACH GEBALLE

barcode@seattleweekly.com

More in Eat Drink Toke

Photo by J Tucker/Sticks & Stones Photography
Meet the Seattle Chef Making a Meal of Marijuana

A latecomer to the world of weed, Unika Noiel is now serving up cannabis-infused dishes.

Giving Vegan a Chance at Kati Vegan Thai

The South Lake Union spot is the perfect place to experience an animal-free meal.

Canopy Growth Task Force Coming to a Farm Near You

New rules might make it harder on small operations.

Jeff Sessions Drags His Feet on Cannabis Research

The U.S. Attorney General is at it again.

The fried cauliflower with buffalo sauce and blue cheese mousse. Photo by Nicole Sprinkle
In the Ballard Commons, an Uncommon Spot

Gather Kitchen + Bar gives diners a reason to depart from the neighborhood’s restaurant row.

The Halal Place You Haven’t Heard Of

Gyro Time in Greenwood turns out fresh food and a welcoming vibe.

California Weed Farms Go Up In Smoke

The wildfires ravaging the state hit at the heigh of outdoor grow season.

A Tour of Seattle’s 10 Newest Food Trucks

Poke bowls, chicken katsu, and barbecued jackfruit, all on a roll.

The 10 Best Dishes in Seattle

Over the last six months, we’ve tasted dozens of entrees. These are the standouts.

Most Read