My Kingdom for a straw

Posted 4/6/22

I am a nature lover and do not knowingly litter the earth with excess plastic. A reusable water bottle holds my H2O, and my groceries are carefully placed in colorful, reusable bags purchased at the …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

My Kingdom for a straw


I am a nature lover and do not knowingly litter the earth with excess plastic. A reusable water bottle holds my H2O, and my groceries are carefully placed in colorful, reusable bags purchased at the Christmas Tree Shop when they were still priced at .99 cents. (Bed, Bath and Beyond recently sold off this iconic New England store staple, which promptly raised prices.)

Leaders say that the most effective solution to littering is strong anti-litter laws and regulations. People and businesses are much more likely to comply if there are legal or financial consequences. Alaska charges a fine of $1,000 to someone caught littering. In Idaho, a person can be sentenced to 40 hours of beach clean up if observed dropping refuse anywhere but in a trash bin. Laws in in Maryland, Massachusetts and Louisiana provide for license suspensions. In Arizona, littering within 50 feet of a highway, beach or shoreline will trigger a  fine up to $2500, which is ironic considering Arizona does not HAVE a coastline. Wyoming, as with most other states, considers littering to be a misdemeanor, and it is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and 40 hours of community service.

These laws were created to criminalize the act of littering to deter people from throwing their trash around. The problem is, most states do not enforce the law unless someone dumps a massive amount of trash, such as dumping 100 tires in an empty field. Tossing out a cup or a straw will not even raise an eyebrow among most law enforcement.

Littering has resulted in nine BILLION tons of litter floating in the ocean, including an island twice the size of Texas floating in the Pacific Ocean. More than 100,000 marine animals die after getting tangled up in plastic. Over a million land animals die after ingesting discarded trash. Over 25,000 car accidents are caused by litter each year, such as plastic grocery bags drifting in the wind and getting snagged onto the windshields of highway drivers going sixty miles an hour, causing the driver to swerve and hit another car.

Nationwide, clean-up costs almost 12 billion dollars a year. Given all of the knowledge about litter, it is understandable how conscientious Rhode Islanders wanted to do something to help the environment. A new law was passed declaring that as of January 1, 2022, customers should not expect straws with their drinks anymore. It has been mandated that bars and restaurants can no longer give customers single-use straws unless they ask for them. Breaking the new straw law can cost businesses $25 for each offense. The official definition of single-use straw is “a single-use, disposable tube made predominantly of plastic derived from either a petroleum based or biologically based polymer used to transfer a beverage from a container to the mouth of the person drinking.”

Oh! How I miss those straws! It is not so much an issue when dining in a restaurant because asking for a straw is easy, especially when reminded by the sight of the server carrying a pocket full of the plastic gems. It is when ordering things at drive-throughs where there is a big problem. Generally, I find myself at such a location when my schedule is super busy and I have to order and drive through in a hurry. Invariably, by the time I am back on the road and stopped at a red light, I reach into my bag of goodies and realize that there is no longer a straw protruding from the top. Aggravated, I try to poke a hole along the edge of the Diet Coke top in order to be able to drink directly from the cup. This unvaryingly results in a soda spill down the front of my shirt, a swerve and near miss from almost hitting the car next to me, and the ejection of various swear words from my mouth. This is therefor a plea for all fast food restaurants to continue to provide straws, albeit less desired paper straws which are biodegradable. A soggy straw I can live with to help the environment, but getting no straw may be the death of me yet.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here