There are almost 500,000,000 plastic straws thrown into landfills each year. Choosing a reusable alternative is a great way to participate in saving the environment.
We believe that straws made of bamboo are a great alternative to plastic straws to a certain extent. The sustainable factor of this natural material is perfect, but it is not as flexible as plastic straws.
Bamboos are 100% sustainable, biodegradable, eco-friendly, and can be harvested as soon as 3 to 5 years from planting. This means that it can regrow quicker compared to e.g. wood that is needed for paper straws. Despite these facts, bamboo may not be your preferred alternative to bamboo straws. Let’s have a look at negative characteristics and facts.
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What are the disadvantages of using plastic straws?
Did you know that experts predict that roughly in the year 2025 there will be more plastics in the ocean than fish? Why do you think you should switch to bamboo straws? You may not realize the big impact of using plastic straws because they are just small. Plastic straws are only used ONCE and then thrown away.
Straws are usually made from type 5 plastic or Polypropylene which is not biodegradable. It would take up to two decades to degrade. Unfortunately, they will never be completely eradicated from our planet. Plastic straws are not even an important part of our daily lives. But still, they are continuously causing damage everywhere.
What are the health risks of using plastic straws?
In addition to the harm to the environment, plastic straws are also bad for your own health.
Plastic straws can harm your body because of the chemical BPA. It can sometimes cause health problems like cavities and even cancer. When plastic is heated by your hot drinks these substances can be triggered. Besides, re-using plastic straws is not reliable. It can lead to the build-up of toxic germs and bacteria.
Plastic contains a lot of chemical preservatives that have adverse human health effects. Examples of these chemicals are carcinogens and diethylhexyl phthalate or DEHP). That is why drinking from a straw, in the long run, can weaken our immune system, cause diabetes, obesity, and hyperactivity.
Plastic straws are usually made from petroleum-derived Polypropylene. Heat, high acidity, and UV light can cause these chemicals to break down the compound. These substances will directly go into your beverages.
Drinking from a straw transports more air into your stomach. This can create some painful digestive signs like gas and bloat. This is common if you are sipping carbonated drinks.
Read more reasons not to use plastic straws anymore.
One way to eliminate the risk is to refrain from using plastic straws. Simply say NO to using plastic straws. There are a lot of organizations that teach awareness everywhere that supports this idea. All you need to do is take action.
What are some examples of reusable straws?
The rise of businesses selling reusable straws is now becoming more and more popular. There are a lot of options to choose from. Let’s have a look at some of them:
1. Stainless steel straws
Reusable stainless steel straws can now be purchased by almost anyone online, in specialty stores, and supermarkets. They are long-lasting, easy to wash, and you can use it as many times as you want. However, sometimes there is a metal aftertaste but will eventually fade over time.
It can be slightly unpleasant to use them for hot and too cold beverages. So be careful!
They may take up to 200 years to disintegrate. They are not biodegradable or even organic. These straws will finally end up in bodies of water or landfills.
2. Glass Straws
Glass straws are not as strong as stainless steels. It is breakable but only if you drop them on the floor. It is good for any beverages. The clarity of the straw makes it look elegant.
Glass straws are also functional in a way that you can easily spot the dirt. There is no aftertaste at all. Glass is recyclable. It makes them a better option compared to stainless steel.
However, we wouldn’t suggest glass straws for kids or people with a disability. The possibility of breakage is too high.
3. Paper Straws
Paper straws are a good alternative for plastic straws because they are completely compostable. However, they are not reusable like bamboo straws. They are only safe for one-time use until they get soaking wet.
So, this doesn’t prevent the trash issue although it disintegrates. In addition, we all stopped using too much paper for the trees. So, this would bring back that issue.
Some also don’t like the feel and taste of paper straws.
4. Silicon Straws
Most people will say that it is kinda squishy and seems like soft plastic. It is easy to clean. It will fit most of the straw brushes. Silicon straws are made from a long-lasting material that is BPA free but not biodegradable. The temperature of your beverages will not be an issue. Therefore, silicone straws are a good alternative to plastic straws.
The flexible characteristics make it a good option for kids and people with a disability. If you would like to check it out, click here!
5. Bamboo straws
And finally, bamboo straws. They are durable, reusable, and lightweight. Each straw is made from bamboo stalks that can be easily washed. And best of all, they don’t have any chemicals. This shouldn’t be all, let’s take a closer look at the pros.
Why is bamboo a great alternative to plastic straws?
Bamboo straws are completely compostable. They are recyclable. Just throw them into a recycling or compost bin, or be artistic and craft something from!
Bamboo straws don’t even contribute to massive deforestations. Bamboo grows extremely fast unlike trees because it is actually a grass. Bamboo plants release 30% more oxygen into our atmosphere. It absorbs higher carbon dioxide compared to other plants and trees. The bamboo trees are absolutely chemical and pesticide free. The wood is naturally antibacterial and immune to mold and mildew.
You can use a single bamboo straw several hundreds of times. It can face years of constant use before replacing them. They are safe to clean even at high temperatures inside a dishwasher when treated.
The bamboo straws have fine edges without splinters. There is no chance of breaking. Best of all, they are child-friendly and will not cause irritation.
What are the things to look for in bamboo straws?
Take a bamboo drinking straw with the right length. This obviously depends on the type of cup or glass.
Be sure to buy a wider straw if you want to use it for drinking smoothies or milkshakes. If you are serious about greener life choices, choose a product with biodegradable packaging as well.
Look for a straw that doesn’t include any dyes or harmful chemicals. If you want a straw that you can leave in a dishwasher, treated straws will be a better option. Raw straws will degenerate in a heated dishwasher.
How to clean bamboo straws?
You have to wash it shortly after use to prevent getting food stuck inside the straws. You can handwash it with lukewarm and soapy water. It is highly advisable to buy a brush to get inside the straw to rub. Mostly these brushes come with the set. Wash them with boiling water and vinegar at least once a month
Store them in a well-ventilated spot. Make sure the straws are fully dried before using them.
How bamboo straws are made?
First is to identify a branch that has the precise thickness and diameter before cutting the bamboo. There are times that the hole must be made bigger depending on how the customer will use it. It can be made using a round file or a drill.
The entire bamboo stalks are cut. Then it will be manually filed into the form of straw. This is to make sure that it is safe to use without any splinters. It is left to dry in open air and sun to reach a well-balanced color.
The manufacturers make sure that the straws are cleansed to eliminate any dirt residue. To achieve this, the straws are put into boiling water for ten minutes. Then they let them dry. The manufacturer usually engraves their name on the toothbrushes.
What are the disadvantages of bamboo straws?
Bamboo straws are not perfect. They also have little disadvantages on their part. These straws are not 100% tasteless. They have this woody-like taste, especially on its first use. The aftertaste will fade eventually.
Bamboo straws may rot or may get some mold if you don’t clean and dry them well. However, this can happen to any reusable straw. Do not store untreated bamboo in a dishwasher. You must handwash them with warm water.
Let’s also not forget about people with disabilities. Most reusable straws are already challenging to wash. Straws are the toughest to clean because of their tiny holes. People with motor disabilities need more flexible straws will probably have some difficulties. Another problem is the flexibility of the material. Some people cannot drink without straws and cannot use straws that don’t bend. In this case, bamboo is not a good alternative either.
Most bamboos are planted, produced, and shipped from Southeast Asia. There are ongoing discussions about the shipment process because of carbon emissions. Global sea transportation has the next highest influence on environmental impact. They seem to be accountable for 15-25% of the carbon footprint and 28-37% of the eco-costs of manufacturing bamboo products.
So, is the a BEST alternative?
There may be lots of advantages and disadvantages of using bamboo straws. It depends on the person using it and on their perspective on life or nature. Any material has it’s pros and cons. The question is what flaws each person can accept and which ones not.
In the end, we just want the best for us and our environment. Most companies are still looking for more ways on how to improve the drinking straw situation.