So, l won’t deny that as a kid, plastic straws or plastic straws pollution, weren’t things l worried about.
Who does when they’re 10?
The main thing l enjoyed was stretching and shrinking the bendable ones and gaining great satisfaction from those noises they made when doing so.
l know, sounds odd right? But l promise it was kinda addictive.
But now, times a-changing. And changing FAST.
The prohibition of any plastics being used, including, of course, a plastic straws ban has occurred across cities and countries alike.
Or is it though? Is a ban the best course of action?
However, banning straws is one option. And one that is imposable from only a legal, governmental scale.
Read this post if you want to see what working at the UN taught me about sustainability.
But there remains plenty of ways we, as individuals, can support phasing out one of the most infamous contributors to environmental degradation.
So, here l outline 5 alternatives to plastic straws. 5 stylish yet sustainable alternatives.
You will be so surprised by number 5. Or maybe you won’t.
But you’ll never know unless you keep reading…
Intro – plastic straws facts
Before delving into the 5 alternatives to plastic straws, let’s consider the scale of plastic straws environmental impact.
Just where did the hysteria and obsession with plastic straws pollution come from?
It seemingly exploded to mainstream attention within the latter of the 2010s, driven largely by social media, viral videos and other popular culture.
The masterful Blue Planet 2 series, for instance, is for many people THE turning point – where people shifted to anti-plastics. Having aired on the BBC in late-2017, it is the precursor to the sharp and sudden spike of attention given to plastics over 2018 and 2019 especially.
But not just plastic straws.
I am going to be completely biased here, and l say l utterly adore that series, the presenter David Attenborough and the cause of the BBC team to present in a no-nonsense light, the effect of plastic straws pollution on all environmental areas, due to our over-reliance on plastics.
Needless to say, you have seen the subsequent impacts on society.
Plastic straws ban have been quickly and dramatically imposed across countries, as straws became the symbol of human environmental impact.
So, how many plastic straws are used each day?
I’m including this question since it helps contextualise why plastic straws matter and why they were honed in on by media and society.
Now, as plastic straws facts go, the most famous one has been:
- 500 million plastic straws are used each day
- or about 1.6 straws per American
However, this is a disputable estimate because it has been impossible to verify.
Professional and academic organisations have tried to measure the plastic straws environmental impact, but this doesn’t mean a clear idea of how many plastic straws are used each day.
Indeed, one market research firm has found the number could be 250-300 million per day.
Or around 130 billion per year!
Irrespectively, l think the exact amount is not as crucial as our efforts to reduce plastic straws pollution.
Whether its 500 million or 500 per day, plastic straws facts are less important plastic straws envrionmental impact. We make the biggest change through our behaviour and by being more responsible in how we consume.
But is a plastics straws ban necessary?
Well, in the US, the biggest trigger was seeing what plastic straws environmental impact meant for individual animals like sea turtles.
One single, viral video initiated country-wide policy changes including the plastic straws ban.
Some like the ideas of bans, because they don’t screw around with producing change. But they are also crude and don’t allow businesses or those who might actually be reliant on straws to adapt.
No plastic straws pollution is just a symptom of a larger issue.
A plastic straws ban is necessary, in one way, for one simple reason:
it induces a broader behavioural and societal change towards how we treat and perceive environmental affairs
So, it makes us think more about what we’re consuming and why.
But, then again…
Bans can be less good. They are technically quick-fixes.
They make it look like something dramatic is being done, and on the surface it is, but if you then consider the bigger picture, a plastic straws ban won’t solve the longstanding plastic straws pollution that has already happened.
While rejecting plastic straws is a terrific start, it needs to be the catalyst, the start of shifting habits more broadly as a plastic straws ban isn’t going to prevent climate change.
They’re one cog in a far larger machine of overall environmentalism.
So, just how can we address plastic straws pollution?
Well, start by using one of these 5 alternatives.
1. The Paper Straw
The most commonplace alternative to that of plastic is good old-fashioned paper. A case of plastic straws vs paper straws then.
Paper is like its plastic counterpart, disposable.
They are usually compostable, recyclable and, if you’re operating or run a business, a terrific, cheaper alternative.
That said, if you are someone who likes to take your time with that drink, a paper straw can be problematic…
Mainly because they tend to just disintegrate or dissolve.
And that could make for a rather non-flavoursome cocktail or some unexpected ingredients!
2. The Metal Straw
Up next comes the metal straw.
They tend to be less common, though if you were to visit a flashy cocktail bar, you’re likely to encounter them.
Well, because metal straws can be pretty stylish, with a diverse array of designs or colours to make anyone a proper trendsetter.
Metal straws are definitely a way to go if you like to add your own touch of flair.
The one consideration l would mention is that metal straws can give a weird sensation when drinking.
The material makes them thicker, which, for some people, could feel unnatural, a little unpleasant even. Especially relative to plastic straws.
Equally, clanking the metal on your teeth is possible and is something to consider.
3. The Reed Straw
The third entry is the first plant-based alternative.
Reed straws tend not to be as obvious or common as others but still offer a different experience.
Being made from reeds there is no shortage and they can be hollowed easily.
Plus, they’re completely biodegradable!
Because they are plant-based, reed straws can leave undesired or unexpected aftertastes next to plastic straws
Often this is a drawback for many plant-based straws.
Plus reed straws can be tougher to come by, especially when compared to straw number 4.
4. The Bamboo Straw
Now, these are my personal favourite when it comes to an alternative straw.
Bamboo generally, is the way to go for sustainably as with these products.
They tend to offer the best balance between reducing plastic straws environmental impact while retaining some style.
Bamboo doesn’t obvious issues of plastic.
But neither does it have the unusual, unnatural sensation that metal straws can give.
Bamboo straws can often be the hardest of all straws to clean, principally because they vary and it’s hard to assess how clean or dirty, they are.
Equally, they can infuse a bit of a fibre-infused taste that might not suit everyone….
But as Goingzerowaste underlines, this can be a tropical taste, which for some may be a positive.
5. No straw
Lastly, but definitely not least is the simplest of all.
And my personal preference. Having or using no straw altogether. They are just unnecessary.
For me, once l became conscious of not wanting to use plastic or contribute to wastage l realised how little l actually need one.
And it means you avoid any bitter or domineering aftertaste.
As Ryan Gosling says in Crazy Stupid Love:
‘Looks like you’re sucking on a tiny schvantz, is that what you want?’
Well, is it?
If you want to stop plastic straws pollution, what’s better than not using one?
You don’t have to remember to bring or clean your own straw. And you needn’t then worry of possibly adding to relentless rubbish heaps.
The only downside? Maybe? Perhaps? Possibly?
The responsibility of constantly remembering to ensure you ask for no straws when ordering!
But then that shouldn’t be too much of a challenge now really.
Takeaways – how to address plastic straws pollution
So, there are 5 alternatives to plastic straws.
And as you can see there are plenty of options.
But if you occasionally do overlook using one or forgetting to decline a pesky plastic straw it isn’t something to fret about.
I still make those errors.
Looking for more tips on being green. Check out my post on plant-based milk.
To make it more natural, it’s wise to include the request into your order, as you do with other elements such as dietary requirements:
- So, when asking for a drink, say it like ‘no ice, no straw’
- And ensure to be assertive, as only saying, ‘I don’t need a straw’ can often be dismissed
It is crucial to make it clear that it is a specific request and not optional.
Though as more places do take steps to ban or replace their straws it is hopeful this won’t be necessary. But it never hurts to give a reminder.
Which of these straws would you use? Do you use any l did not mention? Have you already stopped using them?
Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments!