As many of us know, plastic straws are terrible for the environment, especially for our oceans and marine life. Thankfully the world is waking up to the enormous problem that these seemingly harmless plastic straws are causing. A definite shift is underway as individuals, as well as huge corporations, are recognizing this issue and starting to do something about it. Single-use plastic options are kind of hard to avoid, with the US alone using 500 million each day. It needs to be reduced so if you want to join the anti-plastic movement and are looking for alternatives, there are a lot of companies making great products that make it easy to eliminate plastic from your life.
The following are some of the best options if you are looking to switch to a sustainable alternative to plastic straws.
SipWell Stainless Steel Drinking Straws
An excellent place to start is with stainless steel designs. They are durable, easy to clean and will last for a very long time. A popular stainless steel option is SipWell Stainless Steel Drinking Straws. They are around 8 inches long (if you include the bend or 6 inches if you don’t), can be put in the dishwasher, and work best with regular drinks like juice or water. They don’t tend to work as well with smoothies type drinks since the width isn’t really wide enough. Since it is stainless steel, it doesn’t bend and is not flexible. The benefit of stainless steel is that it is scratch proof, super durable and won’t rust. If you are using with a cold drink, it will also get cold, which is a nice little bonus on a hot day. Depending on your aesthetic, they can also be a classy option if you are serving drinks at a party. The downside to stainless steel is that it isn’t flexible and some users may find the steel clinks on their teeth if they aren’t careful. This product isn’t the best option if you are looking for something for small children, since the hardness of the metal may cause safety concerns. If you are buying a reusable alternative, you are going to want to get a package that includes a cleaning brush to make cleaning easier, FYI this package comes with one cleaning brush.
Another popular option for a reusable alternative is silicone. There are a lot of different companies making silicone designs. The benefits of silicone designs are that they are flexible and bendable, come in beautiful bright colors (or cool pastels), and can easily be used by everyone including kids. They probably won’t last quite as long as stainless steel, but you will get a lot of use out of them. One brand that many people like is the Reusable Silicone Smoothie Straws from Seraphina’s Kitchen. These are great because they come in a regular size, or an extra wide size if you are looking for a design that works well with smoothies, milkshakes or bubble tea type drinks. These are quite a long design at 9.25 inches, so you can leave as is or if you would like them to be shorter they are easy to cut to suit the length of your cup. They come with the cleaning brush and are safe to put in the dishwasher, but you can’t use them in a microwave. They are made of 100% FDA food-safe certified silicone, are BPA free, and do not contain lead or phthalates. They come with a carrying pouch, so you can easily bend them and slip them into your bag if you want to take them outside of the home. Overall these are a colorful, easy to wash, comfortable to use a style that doesn’t have the rubber taste that you can sometimes get with some silicone products.
Kitchen Up Silicone & Stainless Steel Straws Bundle
If you aren’t sure whether stainless steel or silicone is the better option for you, you could try this bundle that includes two stainless steel and six silicone styles from Kitchen Up. They come with a cute carrying pouch in case you want to keep them handy when visiting restaurants. This pack also comes with three(!) cleaning brushes, which should be sufficient for most families. I like this pack as a good option for a family that has different needs; it has lots of color options for the kids to choose from, as well as the stainless steel if you feel that silicone isn’t quite your style. It is a great way to dip your toes into the pool to see what works best for your lifestyle.
Biodegradable Bamboo Drinking Straws by BamBoo Roots
Bamboo is also a perfect alternative to plastic since they are reusable, biodegradable, and are plant-based. One bamboo product to consider is the Reusable Bamboo Straws from BamBoo Roots; they come with 12 reusable bamboo straws as well as a cleaning device. There are no inks, dyes, and bleach in the product and they are 100% organic, pesticide-free, and GMO-free. Bamboo shouldn’t be put in the dishwasher and needs to be hand washed, so they are perhaps a little bit more high maintenance than other options. Bamboo is also naturally antimicrobial, so once cleaned you shouldn’t need to sterilize it or worry about germs. Bamboo is super durable, so long as you wash and dry it correctly, you will be able to use them for years. The benefit of bamboo over other styles is that it won’t have a plastic taste, and you don’t need to be as careful as you do when using stainless steel. These are also great for sensitive teeth and mouths since Bamboo is softer than stainless steel. One other positive thing to note about bamboo is that you can use it with hot beverages since it won’t conduct the temperature to the same degree as metal. The only downside to this particular product is that the hole on the inside is tiny.
Another way to go is with paper. Large companies like McDonald’s in the UK are switching to paper straw to replace the one time use plastic. They aren’t the best option if you are looking for something for the home that you will be reusing day after day, but they are great if you are having a party or a significant event and don’t want to use plastic. Paper styles are printed with food safe, soy-based ink, and they are biodegradable and compostable. The best thing about them is that you can get them with lovely colors and prints that can add a nice touch to an event. The only issue that you will run into is that they get a bit soft if you leave them in the beverage for a while, so they don’t usually last much past one drink.
Another paper alternative is these Charmed Rainbow stripe paper beauties. They are cute and fun and not very expensive. They are reportedly very sturdy, and the ends don’t dissolve if you chew them or in leave it in a for a prolonged period drink. It is a trendy choice for weddings and parties
How to Find a Good Environmentally Friendly Alternative to Plastic
What are they made from– First and foremost you will need to decide what type of material will work best for you.
Stainless Steel– They will be durable, conducts the temp of the liquid onto the tube, (hot will make it hot, cool will make it cold), are easy to clean and look very sleek. Not great for kids or if you have sensitive teeth that you don’t want to knock accidentally.
Silicone– They bend easily, come in vibrant colors, great for kids, not quite as durable as stainless steel, but will still last a long time. Easy to clean by putting in the dishwasher.
Bamboo– Slightly more expensive than steel or silicone, can be used for hot drinks as it won’t conduct the heat. Is naturally antimicrobial, but they must be hand washed and not put in the dishwasher. Very durable and will last for years.
Paper– Paper is the least durable of the types mentioned. They work best for one time use. They are inexpensive and are fully compostable. You can get them in lots of fun colors and designs.
Cleaning– Most of the reusable alternatives come with a cleaning brush that makes them super simple to clean. For most of the styles, all you need to do is soak them in hot water with a small amount of cleaner and then run the cleaning tool through a few times. You can also use a pipe cleaner, which if you have kids who like crafts you probably have some laying around anyway. If cleaning the straw doesn’t sound appealing to you, then you may want to check out the single-use paper straws.
Length-Most regular sizes are roughly around 20 cm in length. There are lots of different lengths you can get depending on the size of the container or cup from which you will be drinking. Silicone are handy because you can buy a long length and just cut it to the exact size you want. If you are planning on bringing straws with you when you are out and about and are buying drinks, remember to think about the size of the glasses you usually get. Most regular sizes will be too small for many drinks that you get at chains and restaurants.
Width– A standard width of a regular size is around 5 mm. If you drink smoothies or thick drinks, you may want to consider an extra wide size to help drink more easily.
Sensitive teeth– If you have sensitive teeth, you will probably want to avoid the stainless steel options, since they require a little bit more care when using.
Bendable– One of the best aspects of plastic straws are the designs that can bend, unfortunately, when switching to a reusable or paper design there aren’t any styles that are bendable in the same way as the plastic designs. Stainless steel, paper, and bamboo are all fairly ridged with some offering a bend in the design, but the curve isn’t flexible. Silicone designs are much more pliable and bendable, but not quite in the same way as plastic, they will bend but then go back into the original shape once released.
If you are trying to reduce your impact on the environment, paper and reusable straws are a great place to start. This small step will help the environment, especially for families with kids that use a lot of straws daily. Also remember if you are away from home and need a drink, you can also just not use a straw. Just because a drink comes with a lid with a straw opening, doesn’t mean you have to use it. For most people it isn’t going to make much of a difference to their enjoyment of the drink to not drink from a straw, it just takes a tiny bit more effort. If everyone decided to do this or to use paper or reusable options, it would make a massive difference to the health of the world’s oceans and the environment in general.