Updated: Feb 28, 2021
In case you missed it, last Autumn, the UK government placed a ban on all plastic stemmed cotton buds, plastic straws and stirrers. It’s a great step towards enforcing a reduction in our use and reliance on plastic from the top-down and exactly the type of legislation environmental campaigners have been fighting towards for many years.
Since then, the paper straw appears to be at the forefront of alternatives being used by restaurants, bars and the hospitality industry. OK, so it’s not plastic, but is the paper straw really any better?
In today’s blogs we look at the Battle of the Straw and some of the alternatives to plastic that are currently on the market.
Firstly, let's look at Plastic Straws and why they suck!
Environmentally damaging production: Crude oil is required to make plastic – Like all fossil fuels, this oil causes major environmental pollution during its extraction
Contains harmful substances: BPA (bisphenol A) is often used to make plastic straws which scientific research has shown to be harmful to our health. Plastic can often leach into the products contained within it causing all sorts of health issues.
Plastic is difficult to degrade: Plastic was this incredible invention in the late 19th century. Strong, durable and made to last for years to come. But this is exactly the problem we’ve been left with. It can take up to 500 years for plastics to decompose leaving the planet and our oceans to be overrun with the stuff
It forms Microplastics and pollutes the food chain: As Plastic straws break down into smaller pieces over the decades they form into microplastics, which destroy our soil, oceans and often ingested by wildlife. This in turn is passed up the food chain and even onto our plates through the fish we eat.
Some of the alternatives..
Paper straws are probably the most popular alternative to the plastic straw. They are just as light and can be recycled, are compostable and biodegradable. After all they were used long before the plastic ones came along. However, they still remain a single-use solution. Very little paper straws today are made from recycled paper. Paper also has the drawback of having a finite number of times it can be recycled. Despite this, as straws are used for food and drink, like Pizza Boxes or any Cardboard food container, the food makes this paper contaminated and won’t be recyclable by most waste centres. Finally, Paper straws aren’t always tasteless and can have a negative effect on the flavour.
Believe it or not, metal straws have been used for over 5000 years. They are usually made from stainless steel, can be recycled, don’t contain harmful chemicals and most importantly are durable, meaning they can be reused over and over again. The only downside is that Stainless steel is not completely tasteless and so might leave a bit of an after-taste to what you’re drinking.
Silicone straws are a softer, more flexible alternative to the traditional plastic straw and seem to be well suited for children. Although silicone straws are reusable they are still a plastic product and come with all of the same drawbacks (see above) in particular, the fact they contain BPA’s and other harmful chemicals that can be dangerous to your health.
Straws made from glass certainly look very elegant and stylish. They are reusable, can be disposed or recycled as waste glass, don’t contain any harmful substances and tasteless.
The transparent glass makes it easy to clean and generally glass is a very hygienic material as it’s difficult for bacteria to grip to it’s smooth surface.
Although durable, glass is not completely break-proof and not for the clumsier person that might experience cracks or shatters.
Bamboo is an organic material with natural antibacterial properties. Although durable, Bamboo straws will require regularly cleaning to remain hygienic. You can use a straw cleaning brush or boiling water as well. They also do not have any sharp edges, making them safe for people both young and old. Bamboo straws are reusable, don’t contain any harmful substances and are biodegradable making it easily disposed of. Made from an incredible sustainable material, these straws are one of the best alternatives in the market.