Many eco-friendly reusable straws now exist as alternatives to plastic. In the US alone 500 million plastic straws are used a day. Their environmental impact is not nearly as insignificant as you might think exemplified by an estimated 7.5 million plastic straws being found washed up on America’s beaches.
Most of us love a straw, an ever-present accompaniment to our glass of coke, orange juice, cocktails or other cold drink.
Throughout our long history with plastic straws we've been giving our drinks a stir and playing with the ice. And more importantly, consuming our favourite beverages without having to bring the actual glass to our lips! Brilliant. You can even blow bubbles.
The good news is that environmentally friendly alternatives now abound. Time to ditch the plastic straw in favour of one of the eco-friendly reusable straws below. From reusable metal straws, through paper, glass and silicon. Carry one in your bag or car. To inspire your choice to turn away from plastic here are 7 reusable straws and eco-friendly alternatives:
Bamboo is a pretty amazing natural material. It can grow up to a meter in a day and is said to absorb five times more carbon and produce 35% more oxygen than the equivalent amount of space given over to normal tress. That in itself makes is a great alternative to plastic. Tough, strong and benefiting from natural antibacterial properties bamboo straws stack up well.
Coming all the way from Bali Bambaw straws can be reused hence helping to eliminate waste. At least once they’ve landed at your home that can be used again and again. Each straw is made from a unique piece of bamboo, organically grown and the company claims they are designed by local artisans. Helpfully they come with a wire cleaner for the insides. Bambaw straws can be used in both hot and cold drinks and make for a fantastic eco-friendly straw alternative.
However, like anything that sounds too good to be true, there’s always a caution. Bamboo, when grown intensively, can use pesticides to increase its growth rate. Its harvesting is also often undertaken by poorly paid labour in developing countries. The good news for your choice of Bamboo straws is that Bambaw bamboo all comes from ethical sources.
If you’re keen on seeing your choice of tipple traverse your glass reusable straw then glass if for you. The advantage that glass straws have over metal is that they don’t conduct heat and can be used in hot beverages too. A different look, they are also more likely to end up in shards on the floor. On the upside being able to see through them also helps you know that they really are clean. Look for ones complete with a carry case to avoid not having a reusable straw to hand following an accidental drop.
Our favourites are these bent numbers below in a handful of translucent colours. Shatter-resistant rather than shatterproof they’re BPA free and look brilliant in a tall iced cocktail with or without booze.
Along similar lines to bamboo natural eco-friendly hay straws are also made from 100% natural, organic and biodegradable hay. Wheat straws have been around since early in our straws history. Sometimes going back to what was is a great way to come up with swaps for everyday items that in more recent times have become contributors to plastic waste.
Hay or wheat straws can also be made from local materials, and do check when buying for ones that might be produced near you. The best news about straws made from wheat or hay is they never go soggy.
Stainless steel metal straws can last virtually a lifetime. By investing in a set for home or for your restaurant or bar if you’re in the trade you may never go back. They are a bit more expensive, however, this is a one-time investment. Stainless steel, of course, is totally safe, used in cutlery, cooking utensils and hospitals.
There are a few things to watch out for when buying stainless steel straws. If you have sensitive teeth many brands come with silicon tops to prevent knocks. Also watch out if using them in hot beverages, as being metal they can conduct heat and no one likes sucking on a burning straw.
There are some great brands out there. Senhai stainless steel drinking straws from Amazon come in gorgeous glowing colours and are bang on trend for a glamorous 70s inspired dinner party. Dishwasher safe, in a variety of shapes and sizes they even come with a drawstring bag so you can take them with you so when you’re a guest elsewhere everyone can have a try.
Or swap them for copper for a bit more of a retro feel. These copper straws on amazon are lacquered on the outside to ensure they keep their sheen.
Another stylish eco-friendly alternative comes from Lakeland with their Joie range on Amazon. These ones come with a handy silicon carry case holder to keep them all together and stop them getting lost in your utensil drawer. Almost all brands come with a handy cleaning brush too.
Silicone straws can be a bit more pricey however they are smoother! Less hard in the mouth silicon straws are manufactured from food-safe silicon a bit like your favourite plastic muffin pan. As a result, they are perhaps the best choice of eco-friendly reusable straw if you have kids or for the elderly. These straw alternatives are also dishwasher safe.
The makers of Seraphina’s Silicone Straws available on Amazon also claim they help fight tooth decay, acid erosion and stains. Personally, we just like the pastels and they are nice and wide for extra flow, which is especially useful for those thick smoothies you love to make. Being silicone if you really want to you can even cut them to size. Like the others, these silicon straws also come with a handy cleaning brush.
(not reusable ;-))
There’s a big move to eco-friendly paper alternatives, which are thus far proving the most common alternative to their plastic counterparts. Many of you may well have already come across paper straws in forward-thinking restaurants. Paper from renewable sources can make for a useful eco-friendly alternative. The best ones, of course, both compost and biodegrade.
However, you’ll find it wise to pick your paper straws selectively. Your writer notes with distaste the mushy end of drink experience that can be common with some of the paper straw out there.
If, like me, you’re prone to playing with your ice cubes paper straws can quickly reduce to a soggy mess. And once paper straws become soggy the taste of glue and paper in your mouth certainly doesn’t add to your fine beverage choice. Production of paper straws can also often occur far away, typically in China. Unfortunately, this isn’t the best of news for their carbon footprint. This is changing, however.
The Guardian reports that plastic suckers haven’t been made in the UK for decades. That is until a company called Transcend opened a factory in Wales. Transcend are forecast to be making millions of paper straws a year as chains like McDonald's ban their less environmentally friendly counterparts and consumers start to take the reusable straw seriously.
Perhaps the bigger problem with paper straws is that we’re simply replacing one single-use throw-away item with another. Certainly, plastic is worse. However, we’d be better to consider some of the other reusable straw options above that really help to address the root cause of our throw-away consumerism.
Like pretty much anything paper quality can vary, and the cheaper alternatives can use dyes that may be harmful.
Aardvark straws come highly recommended. According to Bloomberg Aardvark are the only company in the US making paper varieties. Aardvark’s eco-friendly straws are approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Union.
The best news is that they don’t fall apart in your cold drink. Even better they biodegrade in 3-60 days. The company has recently been reported to be struggling to keep up with demand, which must be a good sign.
Natruralik offers another good eco-friendly choice. The company’s products biodegrade fully, meaning that once we’re done with these paper straws they break down into organic matter. Which certainly beats the nasty microplastics that normal straws eventually degrade into after hundreds of years.
This company has ethics at its heart. As such you can also be assured that their straws come from sustainable raw materials and they practice fair labour standards. Dyed chlorine-free they come in a variety of colours including all-natural.
(also not reusable ;-))
Finally, if none of these eco-friendly alternatives has convinced you to ditch the plastic straw if you must go plastic choose the biodegradable variants. Amazon sells 250 for less than a meal from 5 guys.
Biodegradable straws are usually made from a material called PLA (polylactic acid) and rather than oil their raw ingredients are derived from plant starches.
There’s a bit of doubt around as to quite how effective these biodegradable alternatives are in helping the environment. It turns out despite their apparent green creds most require commercial composting to actually break down properly. Basically, this means they need to be surrounded by moisture and other food waste. They may not break down at all if they make their way to a standard landfill. We’re still just throwing them away too.
At TRVST we recognise that plastic straws are merely the tip of the plastic trash iceberg. Despite significant progress at a governmental level, which is important, we can and should act now to reduce our own individual use of plastic straws.
Asking for non-plastic straws is a step we can all take individually. If everyone did so we stand to make a dent in the crazy volume we use every year. We can also play a role in helping to eradicate the environmental harm each straw has the potential to create.
A simple change of behaviour that sparks a conversation around non-plastic straw alternatives and involves all ages and is something that we individually can action is progress. Helping support change like this is why TRVST exists.
We can all make small changes to help reduce plastic waste and chose reusable straws instead of the polluting plastic-type. Buy them complete with a cleaning brush and you may never need to imbibe your drink through plastic again.
The very best thing to do to reduce our impact on the environment is to do without completely. All the same, choosing a truly reusable alternative such as bamboo, metal, glass or silicon helps to reduce our own environmental footprint. Bear in mind that each requires manufacturing and resources to make them plus shipping and so on to get them to you.
We have a long history with plastic and there is no question about their negative environmental impact. Choose reusable straws and we can all do our small bit to minimise waste.