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Grasping at straws: The City Council's next war on plastic


Latest straw poll (William Alatriste/NY City Council)

Because there are readily available and convenient paper alternatives, because the cost of compliance is marginal, because it will be a wee bit better for the vital waters that surround us, we can suck up our reservations and let the City Council stop restaurants and delis from doling out plastic straws.

But please, please, please, don't let this be a precedent for politicians coming after important plastic conveniences for which there are no inexpensive, environmentally friendly replacements.

Please, please, please, let's start systematically tracking the growing pile of mandates, from the sweeping to the picayune, city government is piling on the aching backs of small-business owners, like straws on the back of a camel.

And please, please, please, disregard the people on their high seahorses who insist this will make a meaningful dent in plastic waste.

Floating out there in our oceans are loads of plastic, growing by an estimated 8 million tons a year. By 2050, experts predict the total mass of that manmade crud will outweigh the fish in the sea.

A young beached sperm whale that washed up dead in Spain last month had 64 points of waste in its gut, most of it plastic.

New York City is part of the planet last we checked, and there's nothing wrong with us playing a small part to combat the problem.

Emphasis on "small." Plastic straws are a teeny tiny fraction of the waste that winds up polluting the world's beaches and waters.

And the U.S.'s total contribution to the plastic problem pales in comparison to, say, China's.

What lead Council sponsor Rafael Espinal is really banking on is the fact that few people will care much when plastic straws are swapped out for more environmentally friendly paper.

He wouldn't dare call for a ban on the plastic coffee-cup tops millions of us rely upon to stop our steaming-hot morning swill from spilling on and scalding us. Or would he?