Friday, 22 March 2019

The Straw is NOT the Problem

The last time I went to McDonald's, I saw that the cashier did not put a straw in the tray for my son to use with the lidded carton cup. Forgetting all about the campaign against straws, I asked why was there no straw and was told it is because I need to request one if I want it. Fair enough.

Or rather, it would make sense if it weren't for all the rest of the disposable packaging sitting on the ironically straw-less tray. I once in fact tackled the topic of too much waste in diners as well as other businesses. You may read that article here: http://vintagehew.blogspot.com/2018/11/saving-environment-one-packaging-item.html

To add insult to injury, a few days after this episode I frequented a well-known coffee place with a friend. We ordered a simple black tea and an espresso. Unknown to us the coffee shop was due to close in less than an hour from when we made our entrance so the barista advised us we could only buy our drinks in disposable cups and would that be alright. Well, I wanted my fix of tea and sit-down chat as well as the bathroom so given the choice between disposable or nothing at all I reluctantly said ok for the throw-away cup option. I understand that staff might not be too amused at the thought of washing those final few cups at the end of a long shift but why should that impact the environment? Most likely, the disposable-only rule applies simply because the management forsee less of a cost in that option than paying the baristas to stay a few minutes more to wash up. After all, selfishness and profit margins reign supreme in most big businesses.

Meanwhile I've seen this careless trend in other places too. One such example is the huge thick plastic bags put in some office and public bathrooms for tampons and sanitary towels. Yeah, I get it - these items are gross to throw away directly in a bin - but that is no excuse for so much wastage when pads are anyway packaged in plastic so it is easy to roll the used one up in the still-clean wrapping of the one just put on and tampons are very very small compared to those plastic bags being provided. In fact, even pads are not that big compared to the size of the bags I've seen. Alternately, though still quite wasteful in my opinion, maybe paper bags could be provided instead?

But back to diners now and some less obvious changes that they could incorporate are things like sugar in shakers instead of little paper packets. They are hygienic enough, provide no paper waste and there is likely less wastage by users than when they can freely grab packets and leave untouched then thrown away once the table is cleaned. I also often encounter plastic containers when I order takeout from various places. The black-bottomed, clear-plastic top variety might make for appetising presentation but I much rather have a cleaner planet to live on than a photo-worthy meal. Another, maybe less used but still replaceable item is the disposable wooden chopsticks sometimes presented in restaurants. Once again, I rather blame profit-margins for this one, that accounts for the time it would take an employee/cost of dishwashing the reusable variety.

All in all, I think we are far from environmentally-conscious most of the time, especially here in my country. As with most other pitiable circumstances, this one is clearly brought about more often by a monetary factor than the effort entailed in making the small changes.

They say money makes the world go round. But maybe, just maybe, it is money that will stop the world after all.

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