As the world becomes more environmentally conscious and looks for ways to be more eco-friendly, one debate that continues to range on is the use of plastic straws.
In the United States alone, it’s estimated about 500 million straws are discarded every day. While they are convenient, especially for folks on the go, they can wreak havoc on the environment. They are designed to be thrown away after a one-time use, but unlike other types of plastic they are not recyclable and often contribute to alarming amounts of waste. In fact, plastic straws can often be found in oceanic “garbage patches,” which are also known as gyres: patches of waste and debris pushed together and often made up of microplastics.
So what can be done to combat this problem? One of the simplest options is for businesses big and small to eliminate plastic straws and switch to an alternative such as eco-friendly paper drinking straws. Many states, like California have already worked toward banning plastic straws and making eco-friendly paper drinking straws the norm.
For businesses such as coffee houses and ice cream shops, there are many benefits to switching from plastic straws to eco-friendly paper drinking straws, including:
- They’re biodegradable: Efforts have been made to encourage recycle plastic straws, but even then there’s a good chance they will end up in landfills. Thankfully, paper straws are completely biodegradable and if they end up in a body of water, they break down within a few days.
- They decompose faster: If plastic straws end up in a landfill, they can hundreds of years to decompose and can last a couple hundred years in a landfill. On the flip side, eco-friendly paper drinking straws will decompose back into the Earth within a few weeks at most.
- They’re affordable: More and more businesses are becoming aware of the fact that plastic straws come with a costly and potentially devastating carbon footprint. As a result, the demand for paper straws has risen and businesses can buy them in bulk for highly affordable prices. In some areas, businesses can buy paper straws for as little as two cents each.
- They’re safer around animals If you’ve been to a zoo, you’ve likely noticed that food vendors don’t give out plastic spoons or plastic lids. This is because plastic can be harmful to animals if they ingest it. Paper straws are more animal-friendly and break down much faster.
- They reduce use of plastic: It’s estimated that enough plastic straws are used every day to fill more than 40,000 school buses. Additionally, millions (think about 6.3 million) of straws have been picked up during beach cleanups over the last few decades. By using paper straws, the numbers above can drop drastically and the carbon footprint of plastic can be reduced.
Eco-friendly paper straws certainly aren’t the only option for cutting back on the use of plastic straws. In fact, there are many safe alternatives that might work better for some businesses:
- No straws: If you’re the purveyor of an ice cream shop or a coffee shop, one alternative is offering no straws. It’s true that the average American consumes ice cream about 28.5 times a year, but he or she probably isn’t going to need a straw to eat it. For those who get milkshakes, you can offer sturdy cups that aren’t going to spill.
- Steel straws: If you’re looking for something for home use, stainless steel straws are great because they are dishwasher safe and reusable. You can also use pipe cleaners to clean them.
- Bamboo straws: These straws are made from sustainable bamboo and are lightweight. They easily decompose once they’re no longer usable too.
- Glass straws: These are also reusable and very durable. They’re dishwasher safe and they come in a wide variety of lengths and colors too.
By using paper straws and other alternatives, the carbon footprint of plastic and be drastically reduced and business owners, especially those in the food industry will be able to offer customers the same great products with straws that are more eco-friendly.