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‘So what if we’re toxic?’ Inside the thoughts of Canada’s paper straws

Last week a study out of Belgium found that paper straws were so full of so-called “forever chemicals” that researchers weren’t convinced they were any more sustainable than the plastic straws they replaced. Awkwardly, this news comes just as Canada is midway through an all-out national effort to prohibit plastic straws on the grounds that paper alternatives are better for the environment.

In Dear Diary, the National Post satirically re-imagines a week in the life of a newsmaker. This week, Tristin Hopper takes a journey inside the thoughts of Canada’s paper straws.


What is “toxic,” anyways? What’s “toxic” is a Motor Vehicle Act that assigns uniform standards for driving without allowing for the neurodivergent.

But I’ll tell you what isn’t toxic: A consumer product such as myself containing measurable quantities of poisonous material. Sure, that may be the “technical” definition, but it lacks context.


After taking a closer look at the Belgian study on alleged straw toxicity, I’m afraid I must conclude that it is nothing more than anti-evidence propaganda. Yes, they found trace amounts of PFAS in select brands of paper straws. But did they question whether these straws were popularized with the intent of being a less-toxic alternative? Even if that was not the “methodological” final result, we must acknowledge it as an improvement.

And this study was deafeningly silent on the overall social norms which were bettered by the presence of fibre-based drinking paraphernalia. We can talk all day about how many molecules of perfluorohexane a certain straw may or may not be leeching into the surrounding environment, but what does it say about us when we don’t even stop to consider whether that environment — and the systemic structures it upholds — is even worth saving?


Okay, mistakes are going to be made, alright? I’m so sorry that our magnanimous crusade against the irreversible destruction of the natural world isn’t absolutely to your standards. When Nazi Germany surrendered, were people wringing their hands about whether the bullets had contained too many PFAS? No; they got drunk, sang the national anthem and thanked providence they’d been delivered from incalculable evil.

Perhaps none of you remember the existential scourge that plastic straws represented. Plastic straws were Canada’s ninth leading cause of death. Straw pollution was closing ports to the tune of $13 billion in lost economic productivity each year. Every 14 minutes, a new species was rendered extinct by straw-related asphyxiation. Good ones, too; not just lichens and beetles.


Alright, I’ll level with you: None of this works. Humans are sub-tropical hunter-gatherers; you’re not really supposed to own stuff, have a fixed address or even live past the age of 30. The only way you do otherwise is by exploiting the natural world. Yeah, you can buy an electric car, but I’m pretty sure Mother Nature isn’t exactly clamouring for more lithium mines and hydroelectric dams. Eat organic, fine: It just means they’ll need to burn down more rainforest to produce the same amount of food.

So if you insist on having devices that allow you to suck a beverage rather than sipping it like every other human generation since the dawn of civilization, then I’m afraid something’s going to have to die. You can choke a sea turtle with a plastic straw, or you can poison a wetland with me. Or go live in a hovel somewhere, eat moss and shut up.


I’d like to apologize for my lack of faith, above. We can fix this. It’s just a setback. A setback, that’s all.

You know what we do? We ban PFAS’ in paper straws. If they find another toxic chemical to replace it, we ban that too. We ban all chemicals. If the excess demand for paper leads to deforestation, we ban the deforestation. We ban deforestation, period. We ban all straws; nay, all hollow cylinders. We ban the very act of sucking liquid through a tube, so that none of these plutocrat factory-owner robber barons will be tempted to circumvent our perfect environmental laws ever again.

Source: National Post