Nov 04, 2022 | Samuel Albert

Do you prefer paper or plastic straws?

It's no secret that plastic straws are terrible for the environment. They're one of the top 10 items found during beach cleanups, and they can take hundreds of years to decompose. This has led to a movement to switch to paper straws as a more sustainable option. But is this really better for the environment?

Photo by Thoa Ngo on Unsplash

There has yet to be a clear consensus on which straw material is better: plastic or paper. Some argue that plastic straws are bad for the environment because they contribute to ocean pollution, while others say that paper straws create more carbon footprint during mass manufacture and transportation. Ultimately, it is up to the individual to decide which straw material they prefer. Various alternatives are available, such as fibrous plant-based straws, bamboo straws, edible straws, metal straws, and glass straws.

There are a few important reasons why plastic and paper straws are not a great option. Firstly, both materials require a lot of energy and resources to produce, which can ultimately hurt the environment. Neither material is sustainable or renewable, and both end up in landfills or the ocean after being used. Finally, paper straws are no more environmentally friendly than their plastic counterparts; in fact, they may even be worse for the planet. This is because the process of making paper straws requires a lot of energy and results in the emission of greenhouse gases.

In this article, let's look at some important reasons why both plastic and paper straws are not a great option.

1. Why shouldn't we use plastic straws?

Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash

There are many reasons why we shouldn't use plastic straws. First and foremost, they contribute to the problem of marine litter. Many plastic straws end up in our oceans, where they can harm aquatic life. They can also find their way into the human body. Straws made of polypropylene, for example, can leach chemicals into our beverages and release toxic substances when used in hot drinks.

2. What is the actual environmental impact of paper straws? Are paper straws really more sustainable?

Sure, paper straws are degradable- but that doesn't mean they don't come without a cost. The production of paper straws requires massive amounts of energy, emits greenhouse gases, and uses fresh raw materials. So it ends up being more costly than regular plastic straws.

But there's a deeper problem with paper straws beyond the environmental cost.

Let's be honest. We all love sipping on a cold drink with a straw sticking out. But have you ever thought about where that straw comes from? More likely than not, it starts with cutting down trees. Once the trees are cut down, they're turned into wood pulp which is then made into paper. After the paper is made, it's finally cut into straws. This process is not only lengthy, but it's also dependent on fossil fuels for transportation. So next time you reach for a straw, consider its environmental impact and opt for a reusable one instead.

Also, sometimes, they don't deliver on the fat promise of their degradability and compostability, which is the sad truth - especially with all the hype about them.

3. What are the disadvantages of paper straws?

They're simply not durable enough to withstand the rigors of regular use. After just a few sips, most paper straws start disintegrating, leaving behind a wet, pulpy mess. And that's if you're lucky enough to get one that doesn't fall apart before you even get it into your drink.

Photo by Jason D on Unsplash

So next time you're considering paper straws, think about the bigger picture- and reach for a reusable option instead.

On the brighter side, if it is already becoming soggy, it will decompose quickly once thrown out - and that is a big solace.

4. What are the alternatives to plastic and paper straws?

While plastic straws have caused detrimental effects on our environment and paper straws looming a significant threat to the environment, we are left with only a few options. 

Metal straws are a great choice if you're looking for something reusable. They're easy to clean and don't leach chemicals with hot or cold drinks like plastic straws.

Photo by Tom Radetzki on Unsplash

Glass straws are another eco-friendly option. They're made from recycled glass and can be used repeatedly.

Bamboo straws are biodegradable and provide a durable alternative to plastic. Additionally, they are antibacterial and thus hygienic and come from a renewable source as bamboos grow fast. Also, they can be reused for up to six months.

Finally, edible straws are made from natural starches and sugars and dissolve entirely in water. Since we don't need to throw them away and they can just be eaten, you will no longer be disposing of straws.

So next time you're reaching for a straw, remember that plenty of environment-friendly options are available. Help solve the problem and impact the environment by using one of these choices.

5. What is the best raw material option for paper straws?

Did you know that paper straws don't necessarily only need to come from wood? That's right - a fibrous plant can be used instead. For example, rice straws and wheat straws are perfect substitutes for wood in paper straw production.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Not only are they environmentally friendly, but they're also renewable resources. So next time you're sipping on a refreshing drink through a paper straw, think about all the other possible materials from which it could have been made - it's pretty amazing!

It's clear that plastic straws are a significant contributor to environmental pollution. While paper straws seem like a better alternative, they're with their own drawbacks. So what can we do to reduce our reliance on disposable straws altogether? Here are a few suggestions:

- Use reusable metal or bamboo straws instead of disposable ones.

- If you must use a disposable straw, try composting it instead of throwing it away. 

- Drink from a glass or mug whenever possible. Or try a sippy cup if you love sipping your drink.

- Avoiding the need for a straw altogether.

Share this article with your friends and family to help spread the word about the adverse effects of disposable straws on the environment. Let's work together to find sustainable solutions for our planet!

Tags: Straws

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