At the start of 2019, my "colleague and pal" (TM Frank Esposito) Jeremy Carroll started tracking his plastic straw usage count. Straw bans have been getting a lot of attention, and he reasoned it could be interesting to see just how frequently he came across them.
Jeremy has changed jobs, and he's now with our sister publication, Automotive News. But I thought the straw count was interesting, so I decided to continue it.
And this is where it becomes clear that anecdotes are a long way from data. The numbers I get aren't necessarily going to be what someone else gets.
I know I don't go out to eat as often as others, so my numbers will skew differently from someone who eats out more frequently. Likewise, a friend of mine who is insistent about bringing her own metal straw everywhere will get a different count than I would.
So with that said, here's my straw count for June: 2.
One from a fast food stop during a road trip. No surprise there.
The one that did surprise me was from a restaurant and brewery in Chattanooga. I was surprised mostly because the water glass came with the straw already in it. I've become so accustomed to either straws either only being give out on offer — or placed alongside the water, still in its paper wrapping — that the presence of it in each glass of water placed on our table struck me as unusual.
As one of my dinner companions noted, straws have their place in society. Not only are they needed for people who have mobility issues that make it hard to grasp and drink from glasses, plastic ones helps keep liquids from getting too cold for those sensitive to heat. And reusable straws likely aren't cleaned that well after every use, so people with compromised immune systems have to be careful.
Plus, paper straws may not stand up well after the first sips.
But still, seeing eight water glasses, each with a straw, plopped on each table makes it easy to see why straws have become such a big target so quickly in environmental circles. Because, let's face it, they weren't really needed.
But there they were. And soon they'd be headed to the landfill.
For the record, here's Jeremy Carroll's count as it was for the first five months of the year.
And now mine: