Most of us love a straw, an ever-present accompaniment to our glass of coke, orange juice, cocktails, or other cold drinks. Many eco-friendly reusable straws now exist as alternatives to plastic. However, despite their small size, the ubiquitous plastic straw is not good for the environment.
In the US alone, we use 500 million plastic straws a day. The environmental impact of plastic straws is not nearly as insignificant as you might think, exemplified by an estimated 7.5 million plastic straws found washed up on America’s beaches.
Thankfully these days, eco-friendly alternatives abound, from reusable metal straws to paper, glass, and silicon. You can carry one in your bag or car to help ensure you never again need to reach for disposable plastic straws. To inspire your choice to turn away from plastic, here are 7 of the best reusable straws and eco-friendly alternatives:
Bamboo is a pretty amazing natural material. It can grow up to a meter in a day, absorb five times more carbon, and produce 35% more oxygen than the equivalent amount of space given to regular trees. Tough, strong, and benefiting from natural antibacterial properties, bamboo straws stack up well. That in itself makes bamboo a great alternative to plastic.
Coming from Bali, you can reuse Bambaw straws helping to eliminate waste. Bambaw makes each straw from a unique piece of bamboo, organically grown and designed by local artisans. Helpfully they come with a wire cleaner for the insides. Bambaw straws can be used in hot and cold drinks and make for a fantastic eco-friendly alternative.
However, there's always a caution, like anything that sounds too good to be true. When grown intensively, bamboo can use pesticides to increase its growth rate. Its harvesting is also often undertaken by poorly paid labor in developing countries. The good news for your choice of Bamboo straws is that Bambaw bamboo comes from ethical sources.
Because they come from plants, we think these easily make it up to the top of our list as the best reusable straw choice.
If you’re keen on seeing your choice of tipple traverse your glass reusable straw, then glass is for you. The advantage glass straws have over metal is that they don’t conduct heat and can be used in hot beverages too.
On the upside, seeing through them also helps you know that they really are clean. However, on the downside, they can end up in shards on the floor if you're not careful with them. Look for ones complete with a carry case to avoid not having a reusable straw to hand following an accidental drop.
Our favorites are these bent numbers below in a handful of translucent colors. Made from shatter-resistant glass material rather than shatterproof, they’re BPA-free and look brilliant in a tall iced cocktail with or without booze.
Glass Reusable Straws on Amazon:
Wheat straws have been around since early in our straws history. Like bamboo, they also make eco-friendly hay straws from 100% natural, organic and biodegradable hay. Sometimes going back to what was is a great way to come up with swaps for everyday items that have become contributors to plastic waste in more recent times.
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.
A stainless steel straw can last virtually a lifetime. By investing in a set for your home or 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 and used in cutlery, cooking utensils, and hospitals.
There are a few things to watch out for when buying stainless steel straws or looking for the perfect straw for your iced coffee. Many brands come with a removable silicone tip to prevent knocks if you have sensitive teeth. 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, all vying to replace single-use plastic straws. Senhai stainless steel straws come in gorgeous glowing colors and are bang on trend for a glamorous 70s-inspired dinner party. Dishwasher safe, in various 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 bent straws on amazon are lacquered on the outside to ensure they keep their sheen.
Stainless Steel Drinking Straw Sets on Amazon:
Another stylish eco-friendly alternative comes from Lakeland with its Joie straw set range on Amazon. Unlike other metal straws, these stainless steel straws come with a handy silicone carrying case holder to keep them all together and stop them from getting lost in your utensil drawer. These ones don't come with silicone tips.
When it comes time to clean reusable straws, most brands make it easy by including little cleaning brushes sized perfectly for the job.
These extendable straws come in a pack of 4. You can adjust the position of the silicone tips included in this popular choice to your liking.
Also in stainless steel, this two-pack of reusable metal straws folds down into almost nothing and comes complete with a key chain perfect for stashing in a purse or eco-friendly backpack and accompanying your collapsible water bottle.
Might you be weighing up the option of a metal or silicone straw? Silicone straws can be a bit more pricey but are smoother! Less hard in the mouth, brands manufacture soft silicone straws from food-grade silicone, a bit like your favorite plastic muffin pan. As a result, they are perhaps the best choice of eco-friendly reusable straws if you have kids or the elderly.
Unlike stainless steel, unlike stainless steel, these plastic straw alternatives are also dishwasher-safe and perfect for hot and cold beverages.
Softy Straws make one of the best silicone reusable straws on the market - these curved straws come in different colors and have rave reviews. We love these, not least because they are big, perfect for thicker beverages, and complete with a squeezy feel. You can wash them in the dishwasher without a problem, and they even come with a patent-pending "Squeegee" for cleaning purposes.
The makers of Juju World's silicone straws featured come in big bright colors perfect for kids and adults. With 15 straws in the set, you'll not have to worry about having enough for a big round of smoothies and being silicone if you want to, you can even cut them to size. These silicon straws also come with a handy cleaning brush like the others.
Related: Check out our article detailing if you can recycle silicone to learn more about end-of-life options for your new silicone straws.
(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 have already come across paper straws in forward-thinking restaurants. Paper from renewable sources can make for a practical eco-friendly alternative. The best ones, of course, are both compostable and biodegradable.
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 straws out there.
If you’re prone to playing with your ice cubes like me, 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 cold beverage taste. Production of paper straws can also often occur far away, typically in China. Unfortunately, this isn’t the best 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 is 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.
Furthermore, as other brands and countries follow suit in banning plastic straws, you can be sure you'll see more paper straws alongside your favorite pop or in local coffee shops.
Perhaps the bigger problem with paper straws is that we’re simply replacing one single-use throw-away item with another. Indeed, plastic is worse. However, it’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 are highly recommended. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Union approved Aardvark's eco-friendly straws. According to Bloomberg, Aardvark is the only company in the US making paper varieties.
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 they break down into organic matter once we’re done with these paper straws. Which certainly beats the nasty microplastics that ordinary 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 labor standards. Dyed chlorine-free, they come in a variety of colors, including all-natural.
Paper Straws on Amazon:
(also not reusable straws ;-))
Finally, if none of these eco-friendly alternatives has convinced you to ditch the plastic straw, choose the biodegradable variants if you must go plastic. Amazon sells 250 for less than a meal from 5 guys.
Manufacturers usually make biodegradable straws 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 about how effective these biodegradable alternatives are in helping the environment. It turns out that despite their apparent green creds, most require commercial composting to break down properly. This means they must 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 recognize that plastic straws are merely the tip of the plastic trash iceberg. Despite significant progress at a governmental level, which is essential, we can and should act now to reduce our own individual use of plastic straws.
Related: History 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 behavior 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 choose 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 best way to reduce our environmental impact is to do without altogether. Choosing a genuinely reusable alternative such as bamboo, metal, glass, or silicon helps 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 its negative environmental impact. Choose reusable straws, and we can all do our tiny bit to minimize waste and call time in the final straw - or at least the plastic ones.