8 OCEAN-FRIENDLY ALTERNATIVES TO SINGLE-USE PLASTIC STRAWS
In case you haven’t heard, California (shoutout to my home state) has officially become the first state to ban full-service restaurants from automatically providing single-use plastic straws.
In light of the news, it seemed like there was no better time to break from my usual wild travel/conservation posts and focus on some sustainable lifestyle content — because at the end of the day it’s all connected, right?
But before I jump into my list of 8 Ocean-Friendly Alternatives To Single-Use Plastic Straws I feel like I should (briefly, I promise) fill you in on California’s new legislation and explain why switching from single-use plastic straws is more than just a baby step in the right direction.
AB 1884 (that’s code for the new legislation) will take effect next year and prohibit full-service restaurants from automatically providing single-use plastic straws to customers. Sure, the new law doesn’t actually outright ban single-use plastic straws (diners may still be given them if requested and the law only applies to full-service restaurants, not fast food ones), but it is definitely a meaningful move that will hopefully encourage more conscious consumer behavior.
I think Dune Ives, executive director of Lonely Whale — the organization that led the straw ban movement in Seattle, said it best when she referred to plastic straws as being a “gateway plastic”. “Our straw campaign is not really about straws,” said Ives. “It’s about pointing out how prevalent single-use plastics are in our lives, putting up a mirror to hold us accountable.”
Go on girlfriend! #Preach that single-use plastic-free lifestyle.
It is estimated that more than 500 million single-use plastic straws are used and tossed each and every day — and that’s just in the US. Now I don’t know about you, but that seems like a sh*tload of waste for something that the vast majority of us only use for a matter of minutes and frankly, don’t even need.
While straws may not be the biggest culprit behind the 1.5 billion pounds of plastic waste that researchers estimate ends up in our oceans annually, they sure as heck don’t help. In fact, single-use plastic straws are constantly listed on the Ocean Conservancy’s Top 10 Items of Beach Litter.
With that in mind, it’s no surprise that single-use plastic straws are basically seen as the poster child of today’s convenience-over-conservation mentality. Really think about it, except for people with certain medical needs, nobody actually needs a straw to consume beverages, smoothies, etc. Instead, people have just been conditioned to using them.
For example, have you ever been to a restaurant and the server not bring you a straw with your drink order? The first time it happened were you not thinking “WTF, where’s my straw”, even just a little?
The point is, single-use plastic straws are pretty symbolic when it comes to our relationship with single-use plastic in general. That is why, if you ask me, ditching them is a great start to becoming a more conscious (aka awesome) human on this planet.
Now, if you’re already ridin’ that single-use plastic-free wave, good on you. If not, consider trying one of the following 8 Ocean-Friendly Alternatives To Single-Use Plastic Straws. After all, we all gotta start somewhere.
If the convenience of “single-use” is what got you addicted to plastic straws in the first place and/or you plan on serving a lot of drinks at a party then here are two ocean-friendly single-use alternatives:
The most popular and widely available compostable option is going to be paper straws, like the ones sold by Aardvark — the original paper straw company. Their paper straws come in a variety of colors, patterns, and sizes (from cocktail straws to colossal straws fit for boba tea drinkers). They even have a new Jumbo Eco-Flex straw that bends (check out their different compostable paper straw options here).
Note that Ardvark’s more popular straw options are usually sold out and shipping can be slow. Alternatively, Amazon has a wide range of options available with Prime two-day shipping.
The downside? Paper straws get soft and soggy after sitting in liquid for long periods of time. But if you don’t nurse your drink then you should be just fine.
Another compostable single-use straw option is Lolistraw — the world’s first edible, hyper compostable, marine degradable straw by Loliware. Made with seaweed and available in different flavors, these straws aren’t officially on the market just yet, but you can preorder them on Lolostra’s Indiegogo campaign page.
The downside? As of writing this post, the first round of shipment still hasn’t gone out, so no one really knows how they taste, how well they work, etc.
Straw straws are an all-natural, biodegradable, and sustainable single-use alternative to plastic straws. They’re made of natural wheat stems and have a similar feel and function to traditional plastic drinking straws.
HEY! Straws makes some good ones and sells them in plastic in plastic-free packaging (you can get 100 for around $10 on Amazon). Other manufacturers of straw straws include Harvest Straws and Straw by Straw (UK-based), and Amazon sells THIS option (available with Prime two-day shipping).
The downside? Straw straws are pretty thin and don’t have the same durability as plastic straws. They’re solid for sucking up most liquids, just don’t get crazy and try to use them with a smoothie or a milkshake.
If you’re looking for a reusable, all-natural alternative to your single-use plastic straws then consider going the bamboo route. Bamboo straws are all-natural, biodegradable, and sustainably grown and harvested, all while provide a particular “warmth” and texture that only my fellow bamboo lovers will understand.
Buluhlove makes some quality ones using 100% organic bamboo and StrawFree makes some extra-wide, boba-friendly straws along with other shapes and sizes. One thing to keep in mind if you decide to try this single-use plastic straw alternative is that, although durable, bamboo is a natural material and over time (like a while and after plenty of uses) will eventually wear and tear.
The downside? Bamboo straws are kind of high maintenance. Since bamboo is an all-natural, these straws aren’t considered dishwasher-safe, so you’ll need to wash them by hand. You’ll also want to make sure that your bamboo straw is super dry after cleaning it and that you store it in a well-ventilated place to prevent mold.
Last but not least, you’re likely to experience a slight ‘bamboo’ taste with the first few uses (I actually like it but it might not be everyone’s cup of tea).
Purchases on Amazon usually arrive in plastic packaging.
To order a bamboo straw that arrives in plastic-free packaging check out THIS option from the Package Free Shop.
I’ll say this… Glass straws, like these eco-friendly ones from Hummingbird Glass Straws, look classy AF. They’re sleek, they clean easily and are dishwasher safe (unlike bamboo), and are available in different shapes and colors.
If you do decide to go the glass straw-route be sure to spring on a quality one (preferably made from borosilicate glass which is the strongest that’s commercially available).
The downside? 1.) They’re made of glass, and glass can shatter (but for what it’s worth I had my first glass straw for 7 months and dropped it multiple times before it came to that).
2.) Clinking your front teeth with a glass straw is almost inevitable, and it sucks.
3.) They’re not biodegradable.
In my opinion, if you’re looking for an alternative to single-use plastic straws that you can actually get used to taking everywhere with you it’s probably metal straws. There’s just something less dramatic about pulling a metal straw out of its case while you’re at a bar than say a glass or bamboo one… I dunno, maybe that’s just me tho.
On a more serious note, metal straws are definitely the most durable option on this list. They’re dishwasher-safe and easy to clean but you don’t have to worry about breaking them like glass straws. Metal straws also help to keep your drinks cold, which I can definitely appreciate.
If you opt for metal straws as an alternative to single-use plastic ones just be sure they’re made of food-grade stainless steel that is nontoxic and BPA-free. This will ensure they’re 100% safe to put in your mouth and that they won’t rust over time.
Some quality set options include EcoTribe’s zero-waste set (4 stainless steel straws, 2 cotton cleaning brushes, 2 beechwood cases, and carrying pouch included) and Kleen Kanteen‘s 5-piece straw set with silicone flex tips (natural palm fiber brush included). But my personal favorite is Earth Root’s metal and bamboo straw set. It comes with 4 reusable straws (2 food-grade stainless steel straws and two natural bamboo straws), 2 straw cleaning brushes, and a cute burlap carrying case.
The downside? The teeth-clinking thing happens with these straws too. And like glass, they’re also not biodegradable.
Purchases on Amazon usually arrive in plastic packaging.
To order a stainless steel straw that arrives in plastic-free packaging check out THIS option from the Package Free Shop.
Chances are you’ve come across and/or maybe even used an acrylic straw before — you know, they’re those hard plastic-like ones that usually come with reusable cups and tumblers.
If you’re looking for a low-maintenance yet sturdy alternative to single-use plastic straws, consider something like these budget-friendly Rainbow Colored Acrylic Straws (a set of 8 is about $8). They’re BPA-free, dishwasher safe, and won’t hurt your teeth if you happen to hit them (can’t say the same about the glass and metal options).
The downside? Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like you can never quite get acrylic straws squeaky clean. There just always seems to be some sort of visible residue that builds up over time.
Like the glass and metal alternatives, acrylic straws are not biodegradable.
If the bend-ability and chew-ability of traditional plastic straws (no judgment I’m guilty) are what is keeping you from switching to one of the above-listed alternatives, then consider a reusable silicone straw.
If you decide to go this route make sure the straws are made of BPA-free, food-grade silicone like the ones from Softy Straws. These straws are soft (no teeth-clinking), dishwasher safe (you can even boil them for sterilization), affordable, and available in different sizes and styles. You can order a pack of 4 on Amazon for around $11 (Prime two-day shipping available).
If you’re looking for something to drink hot beverages with, definitely check out Koffiestraw‘s options. They remain room temperature even if your drink is piping hot and are thin enough to fit through the slit of a coffee cup lid. This straw is also available in plastic-free packaging from the Package Free Shop.
Lastly, while silicone straws are durable and can last forever, when they’re ready to be tossed you can burn them — turning them into 100 percent biodegradable ash.
The downside? You’ll need to suck a bit harder with these straws, and good luck using them to drink something thick like a smoothie.
While none of the above-listed alternatives are perfect, when you consider that the average American uses upwards of 38,000 straws in their lifetime, any option seems like a better choice than single-use plastic straws.
So whether you ease into the transition with the occasional straw swap or jump right into carrying around a reusable straw everywhere they go, know that you’re doing an awesome thing for our planet, its oceans, and all the living things that depend on them (yourself included).