Nov 04, 2022 | Samuel Albert

Paper Straws Vs. Plastic Straws: Which One Will You Prefer?

Sipping my favorite Blue Lagoon Cocktail with a straw is something I look forward to whenever I am on a beach vacation. Does it really matter what my straw is made of? But wait! The outcry of the silent nature tugs at my heart to think twice here. I definitely don’t want to abuse our environment, even if it means it is something as small and insignificant as a single straw.

Photo by Thoa Ngo on Unsplash

If asked to choose between the two, paper straws would be my ideal choice. But sadly, in reality, both paper and plastic straws contribute to the harm caused to the environment either directly or indirectly; the former by trashing our surroundings for years and the latter by increasing our carbon footprint. So, our best take here would be to pick the one that causes the least damage, and that would be paper straws, or choose to use reusable straws instead.  

Technological innovation has put us on a merry-go ride that seemed innocent and joyful at first but now, which we have no control over, the effects of which have snowballed, destroying all that comes on its track.

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


1. Why Should We Avoid Using Plastic Straws?

Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash

Plastic straws, made of polypropylene, leach harmful and toxic chemicals into the hot drinks which they are served with. This can cause life-threatening illnesses like cancer. So, avoiding plastic is crucial to safeguard our health.   

Secondly, straws fall out during the separation process from the conveyor belt because of their small size and lightweight and end up in landfills instead of getting recycled. 

Due to their lightweight, they also easily find their way into the ocean contributing to the marine litter where they cause harm to aquatic life. 


2. 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 generating regular plastic straws.

But there's a deeper problem with paper straws beyond the environmental cost. As the demand for paper straws increases, trees are cut down to fulfill the need. Large-scale manufacturing and transportation indirectly lead to the emission of greenhouse gases.

Also, sometimes, paper straws don't deliver on the fat promise of degradability and compostability when they are not made purely from paper and mixed with plastic - especially with all the hype about paper straws.


3. What Are The Disadvantages Of Paper Straws?

Photo by Jason D on Unsplash

  1. The biggest disadvantage of paper straws is they can become soggy when soaked in a drink just for a short while. Leaving them for a longer time inside the cup can make them shapeless and fall apart.
  2. They are use-and-throw straws that cannot withstand rough handling.
  3. When immersed in hot liquids, they start disintegrating, leaving behind a wet, pulpy mess. And it doesn't serve the purpose.

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 dangerous effects on our environment and paper straws pose 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 into hot or cold drinks like plastic straws.

Glass straws are another eco-friendly option. They're made from borosilicate and can be used repeatedly. Their transparency ensures their cleanliness which is an added advantage.

Photo by Tom Radetzki on Unsplash

Bamboo straws are biodegradable and provide a durable alternative to plastic. Additionally, they are antibacterial and thus hygienic and come from a quickly renewable source as bamboos grow fast. Also, it can be heartening to know that 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 after the drink is over, and you will no longer need to dispose of straws.

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


5. What Is The Best Raw Material Option For Paper Straws?

Did you know that paper straws don't necessarily need to come only 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.

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, right!

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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, which means you must always carry one. By doing so, you can deny the need for a straw whenever you have a drink and put your own personal straw to use when they are needed.

- If you must use a disposable straw, try composting it instead of throwing it away. Taking personal responsibility for a simple paper straw can make a massive difference in the long run. 

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

- Declining the straw altogether when offered.

- 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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