Strap on your Sam Browne and head for the mall. Straw cop is on duty.
Washington has become the latest city in a nationwide movement to ban plastic straws, and it’s up to Rybarczyk, an inspector for the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment, to enforce the new law.
I’m not a straw user. Not the straight ones. Not the bendy ones. Not plastic ones. Not even paper ones. If straws disappeared from the face of the earth, it would mean absolutely nothing to me, personally. It would, however, mean a great deal to the sea turtle with a straw stuck in its nose.
Past Auntie Anne’s, past Johnny Rockets. At Lotus Express, a Chinese food joint, Rybarczyk peeled the wrapper from a red straw and bent the end – the telltale giveaway.
Is there training necessary for ascertaining plastic from anything else? Sure, donut glaze or Tide laundry detergent can be mistaken for narcotics, but is it really hard to figure out whether a straw is plastic or paper?
The straw cop left the rattled cashier at Lotus Express with a warning that if the store was still using plastic straws by July, when a grace period expires, it could be fined up to $800.
Perhaps the “rattled cashier” is the owner of this Lotus Express, with the power and authority to rid his mall food court restaurant of demon straws. Or maybe this is some minimum wage kid being threatened by the Straw Cop. Of course, what to do with the ten thousand plastic straws in the box in the backroom remains a mystery, since disposing of them in the garbage would present the very harm the law banning plastic straws would purport to eliminate.
At one time, when our environmental consciousness was nonexistent and our dreams of future materials that would allow us to create a million common products easier, more inexpensively and with greater longevity was predominent, plastic was a miracle. Even from an environmental perspective, it was good stuff, as it saved trees, from which the paper that goes into making paper straws is derived. Trees are good too.
There are restaurants whose philosophical view of the world precludes them from using plastic straws.
The effort in the District has been pushed along by Dan Simons, co-owner of the Farmers Restaurant Group.
Simons never stocked plastic straws at his seven restaurants, including the flagship Founding Farmers in Foggy Bottom, preferring bioplastic straws that are supposed to decompose.
But when he stuck a bioplastic straw in a container of salt water for six months and it didn’t change, he was convinced that they, too, have drawbacks.
Last spring, Simons formed Our Last Straw, a coalition of D.C.-area restaurants, bars, hotels, event venues and organizations to lobby for an end to single-use plastic straws. He said it was relatively easy to persuade others to join.
What a wonderful approach to something as banal as a straw. They’re an environment disaster? Don’t use them. Nobody will suffer too badly for lack of a straw. But of course, every prohibition needs muscle to be effective, as there always seems to be some miscreat like the cashier at Lotus Express who will be pushing
heroin straws over their counter.
Not knowing Zach Rybarczyk, I have no clue whether he dreamed of growing up to be a straw enforcer, going from food court to fine dining in search of violators. In fairness, he may very well have wanted to police the environment, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But every well-intended law that imposes criminal sanctions requires the force of the state to back it up.
While it may be unlikely (though hardly impossible) that any straw criminal will be gunned down for his crimes, that’s how law works. Then again, maybe they give straw cops plastic bullets for their weapons.