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Grasping at straws: Organic illiteracy and the anti-plastics crusade

An article written by Clare Goldsberry, “,” reminded me of that photo of a turtle with a straw up its nose that went viral. It seems like that was a tipping point for the movement to ban plastic straws.

It got me wondering why we don’t we see air-breathing amphibians inhaling twigs, pencils and crayons, which are solid and could get stuck much more easily in a nostril. It dawned on me that Mother Nature gave us all two nostrils so that this won’t happen. 

I have been asking friends to demonstrate how a straw can be inhaled without using their hands. I can’t seem to find any takers, even when the challenge comes with a $100 reward. It becomes even harder in water!

The plastic straw is a marvel of our technology. The amount of energy it takes to make a hundred straws is less than the energy consumed driving to the recycling bin. The straw is made of a very small amount of inert material, which only has long crystalline molecules of carbon and hydrogen. Same stuff as wax candles. 

Have to outlaw birthday candles, too. 

Actually, landfilling basic plastics is carbon sequestration.

I have made candles with a mixture of plastic grocery bags and wax and had dinner guests sample-breathe the “toxic” fumes. There is a lot of organic illiteracy out there. 

I want to go to the start of one of those plastic-free hikes. 

Nothing but cotton and wool for clothes, shoes and packs. Re-usable bags are plastic. No eyeglasses; no suntan lotion in tubes; no shampoo, medicine or food containers other than metal or paper. You can’t use coated paper cups or straws, since the coatings are plastic. I could go on and on. 

I once gave a seminar at Microsoft, where they were huge into recycling, and told them I didn’t believe in recycling as it’s done today. What I do believe in is “long cycling,” where all materials are separated as best as economically possible and stored in landfills or old mines until there is enough on site to build a sophisticated plant to reclaim those molecules as good as new. For the materials that burn as safely as straws, we can make electricity or heat homes safely. 

We have to promote reasonable and responsible containment of all types of waste, so that it can be a future resource. We also have to remember that most plastics float and are on—not in—the water. They don’t sink to the bottom like aluminum cans or glass bottles. People put it there. Don’t vilify the material. 

Of course, there is much more to say. Clare’s article is great, but this information must get out to a larger audience.

About the author

Rod Groleau is the founder of , a training and consulting company located in Traverse City, MI, that specializes in the injection molding industry.

» Publication Date: 06/08/2018

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The development of this project has been co-funded with the support of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Union
[LIFE16 ENV/ES/000305]

This publication reflects only the author's view and that the Agency/Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains


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