Pick a straw, any straw! Well should you really pick any straw? You’ve probably already heard about how bad plastic straws are for our environment, but there are so many reusable straws available on the market, it can be hard to choose! To make it easy, I thought I’d break down why you should avoid using plastic and the variety of reusable straws that you can find.
Why are Plastic Straws so Bad?
A few years ago, a video of a turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nose went viral on the internet. This video sparked the conversation of avoiding, even banning, the use of plastic straws. However, not using plastic straws goes beyond “saving the turtles”. It is estimated that over 500 million plastic straws are used every single day in the U.S. alone. But plastic straws are too lightweight and too small to be recycled at the recycling plant and often never make it into the recycling bin in the first place. As a result, plastic has escaped into our environment and beaches around the world. In response, Seattle has banned plastic straws city-wide and Starbucks is transitioning to strawless lids. Ultimately, the best way to reduce the pollution of straws, and plastic in general, is to not use them at all.
What are the Sustainable Straw Alternatives?
Natural bamboo straws are the best alternatives for straws, as they are a natural material. These straws are cut from the bamboo stalk’s natural length, left out in the sun to dry and are then filed down to be smooth- making the manufacturing process clean and green. Bamboo is already naturally antibacterial, therefore, no harsh chemicals are used to preserve the material, making them BPA free. Don’t worry- they are washable, too! Wash with soap, warm water and a cleaner. What’s the best part? If these straws were to ever land in the environment, they will compost overtime!
The most environmentally-friendly straw cleaners are those with bristles made from natural materials. Coconut fibre straw cleaners avoid nylon completely, allowing the bristles to be composted and the handle to be recycled, if it ever needs to be replaced.
Glass & Metal
Metal and glass straws are the most common reusable straws found in convenience stores or online. These straws are durable and recyclable, which makes them a great choice for a straw alternative. They are easy to clean and dishwasher safe. Glass and metal are temperature sensitive and not recommended for hot or really cold beverages. However, if these straws were to ever get into the environment, they wouldn't break down over time, leaving them as litter.
You may have seen paper straws at your local restaurant or coffee shop. These one-time use straws are definitely a greener option when compared to utilizing plastic, as they do breakdown in the environment. However, the manufacturing of paper straws still includes the intense process for making paper: which includes cutting trees, breaking the fibres into pulp and the transportation of materials - all of which contributes to fossil fuels being released into the environment. Paper straws are also coated with adhesive to maintain their shape- to me, that doesn’t sound too appealing. But, paper straws are the best alternative if you are looking for one-time uses at events or for large gatherings when you don’t want to worry about washing!
Silicone straws are chewy and bendable, making it perfect for those who have the tendency to chew on their straws. You can also find silicone tips to attach to any of your preferred straw. These straws are completely dishwasher safe and can be used for hot or cold beverages. Most silicone straws are BPA-free, making them safe for humans, it doesn’t necessarily mean these straws are safe for the environment. Silicone is a material that cannot decompose or be recycled, therefore, these straws continue to contribute to landfill waste.
At the end of the day, all of these straws are an excellent alternative to the pesky plastic straws. Choose an option that works best for you and your needs. To always be prepared, leave a straw in your car, purse and desk drawer. Then, whenever you decide you’d like to use a straw, you can say, “no, thank you” to the plastic. Always remember, every little change creates a big difference! So pick your favorite straw and sip the summer away!