As you walk into the bar where you’ve arranged to meet your friend, you look around you at the array of delicious drinks on offer. Walking to the counter you make your choice, and as the bartender makes your drink you greet your friend with a smile. It’s going to be a chilled and fun evening of catching up on old times.
The barman hands you your drink and places a paper straw in it. “Great!”, you think, “this place really cares about the environment!”
But let’s just hold it there. You see, while the bar might be trying to make an effort to care for our planet, we need to talk about paper straws. It turns out, their eco-credentials may need to be revoked!
What’s the deal?
Bars, restaurants and takeaways create a massive amount of waste. In the US between 170 million and 390 million plastic straws are used, and then thrown away, every day.
Plastic straws aren’t biodegradable, or widely recycled. They easily make their way into the natural environment and can maim or kill wildlife. And then we have the issue of microplastics, which we still don’t know enough about.
It’s a huge issue and the industry has begun to look for ways to combat the problem. Paper straws are one of those ways. In some countries, like the UK, plastic straws have been made illegal, leaving establishments struggling to find alternatives.
What about paper?
Ok, you know that here at Ecotique we’re not about beating ourselves up. So let’s start with the good news. If we’re working with some sort of eco-friendly hierarchy then paper straws are nowhere near as bad as plastic straws. But they’re probably not the planet-friendly alternative we’ve been looking for.
There are two main problems with paper straws.
Paper straws use more resources to produce than plastic ones. You wouldn’t think it, after all, wood is a renewable resource. But paper straws take more energy to make than plastic ones, and they also emit more greenhouse gases.
The problem is the process. Making a paper straw is more difficult, and takes longer, and so uses more energy. If you want to make anything out of paper then it’s a similar story. So, while plastic straws might have their green issues, paper straws aren’t whiter than white.
You would assume that, because paper is biodegradable, the same thing would be true of paper straws. One of the biggest arguments for paper over plastic is that in a few weeks or months, we won’t have to worry about it anymore. Soon it will break down and disappear back into the ecosystem, or be recycled.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Paper straws will only biodegrade if they are composted properly. If they’re thrown in normal waste then they will end up in landfill. Landfill is specifically designed to prevent decomposing. Thrown out paper straws will just add to the pile of garbage.
When it comes to recycling, it’s bad news again. Recycling programs generally don’t accept paper products that have been contaminated with food. So the minute your straw absorbs the liquid from your drink, it can’t be recycled. Any dyes used to color the straw further complicate matters.
I know that we said two things, but this one is just a pet peeve of ours. From an engineering standpoint, paper straws are terrible (if you want to geek out on why then you can read more here). But the main issue is how the liquid traveling through the straw weakens its ability to stand up to pressure. That’s why it’s harder to drink your soda through a paper straw once you’re halfway down the glass as it slowly turns to mush. And we know that no one wants to enjoy their drink with a side order of wood pulp.
We can, and should do better. Thankfully, here at Ecotique, you can easily find the stylish solution to your sipping problems that actually works.
So, what now?
Reusable always scores higher in the eco-friendly stakes than disposable. While paper straws might be a slightly greener option than the plastic variety, they are still a single-use item, resulting in more waste.
Just as you can carry around your own reusable cutlery in those cute little pouches, adding a straw to your collection will save you from sogginess, and the turtles from another plastic tube floating around in the ocean.
For a material that lasts, is easy to clean and sturdy, stainless steel is a good choice. Our collapsible stainless-steel straws are fashionable, compact, portable, simple to clean out with a small brush, and will keep you sipping away all evening. Keeping your refreshing drinks nice and cold from the moment it leaves your glass to hitting your tongue only makes it more enjoyable!
Click here to choose yours now!
Although they won’t last forever, once they wear out bamboo straws are compostable and will break down in a few months. Being home to the soil and having a rapidly fast maturity rate gives them great eco-credentials, and they look great popped in your drink too. Bamboo straws are known to be one of the only reusable straws that are 100% biodegradable. The fact that no two pieces are identical only adds to its natural aesthetic, and it shows off the fine and excellent craftsmanship of villagers and farmers who make them by hand!
You can get yours here!
We love it when people think outside of the box, as that is where the best inventions come from. Drinking from a wheat straw is nature’s miraculous kind way of asking us to reconsider using the prominent single-use straw options in the market. They’re thin, pretty, and robust enough to not deform like paper. If you are a celiac or have any other gluten-related concerns, you may be happy to hear that wheat straws are made from wheat stems that are left over after the grain is harvested, and not from the actual grain that contains gluten.
Treading a sustainable path can be tricky, and sometimes we can get it wrong. That’s ok. Life is about trial and error, learning and improving all the time. Using a paper straw while sipping on your mojito isn’t going to make you persona non grata at the next Greenpeace rally.
But keeping yourself informed about materials, and the impact they have on our environment means that you can make better decisions every day. The American poet and activist Maya Angelou once said:
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
Here at Ecotique, we want to give you the tools you need to live a sustainable life without stress and confusion. From our products to our articles, we’re here to help so we can all do better.