Do We Really Need Straws?

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We use straws in odd places.  For example, people drink soda with a straw, but how many suck beer through one?  Coffee lovers gulp the hot stuff directly from cups but stick straws in iced coffee. At a bar, some drinks come with a straw, but not others. In certain theme parks and museums that currently ban plastic straws, adults and children just drink from cups, or paper straws, which are much more environmentally friendly. If a straw isn’t around, in most cases, we just go ahead and drink from the glass.

How did we start drinking from straws, anyway? According to the Washington Post, “The prevailing notion says flexible straws were invented in the late 19th century by Marvin Stone, a D.C. man who didn’t like how the traditional ryegrass straw people used for drinking would disintegrate and leave gritty residue in his mint juleps. Stone wrapped strips of paper around a pencil, glued the strips together and test-marketed the contraption, and in 1888, the disposable straw was born, according to the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. 

The new paper straw was limited mostly to use in hospitals, which used the innovation to avoid spreading disease. Usage widened during the polio epidemic that began in 1900 as people avoided putting their mouths on others’ drinking glasses. Finally in the 1960s, restaurants offered a new invention: a disposable plastic straw.”

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