We produce 300 million tons of plastic each year throughout the world, half of which is used to create single-use items. That’s almost equal to the weight of the entire human population. Single-use plastics, or disposable plastics, are only used once before being discarded. These items include plastic bags, straws, coffee stirrers, water bottles, soda, and most food packaging. The average American uses 1.6 straws per day alone, which is enough to circle the equator two and a half times. While single-use plastic items such as straws may be convenient, most of them end up in our oceans, wreaking havoc on the environment. This is often because of human littering, or because they are very lightweight, are often blown out of trash cans, garbage trucks, or barges, and eventually make their way into the ocean.

Why Are Single-Use Plastics, Like Straws, Bad for the Environment?

When plastic ends up in the ocean, it breaks down into tiny particles referred to as microplastics. Microplastics are small plastic pieces less than five millimeters long which can be harmful to our ocean and aquatic life as they do not biodegrade or dissolve.

Experts predict that by 2050, 99% of all sea bird species will have ingested plastic and that the mortality rate from plastic consumption by sea birds can be as high as 50%. Additionally, scientists have found that plastic is currently in sea salt, 94% of U.S. tap water, and shellfish. A recent study conducted by scientists at the UGA New Materials Institute also discovered microplastics particles inside baby sea turtles, which were likely dying due to ingested plastic pollution, which threatens the species’ survival.

What Can I Do to Help?

“The best way to keep plastic straws out of landfills is not to use them—whether you’re at home or in a restaurant,” says Jonathan Kuhl of the D.C. Department of Public Works. “If you’d like to use a straw, there are paper and other non-plastic alternatives.”

Straws have a lot going for them. Coupled with a lid, they prevent many a spill. For young children, using a straw can help them develop articulation and clarity of speech. Many people in the elderly and disabled communities find plastic straws, in particular, indispensable. 

While straws have their benefits, single-use plastic straws do not have too many redeeming qualities (if any) for most of us. That’s why we should each consider our current straw usage strategy and see if we can offer ourselves a better alternative to plastic straws.

Plastic Straw Alternatives

Below are some of our top picks of eco-friendly straw alternatives.

  • Glass Straws

      • When it comes to eco-friendly sipping products, a glass straw, which is both reusable and recyclable, may be your best option. Unlike paper and metal straws, glass straws don’t change the taste of your drink. And you don’t have to worry if you’re a little bit clumsy! Most of them are made out of shatter-resistant borosilicate and are quite sturdy. Cypress Straws produces a great glass straw and donates 10% of all profits to environmental research and conservation efforts! 
  • Bamboo Straws

      • People love using bamboo straws because they are 100% chemical-free and also because bamboo is biodegradable, naturally antibacterial, and one of the most sustainable resources on earth. It is important to note that this plastic straw alternative can’t go in the dishwasher, and after some time may splinter. While they do have a limited life, bamboo straws are still a good alternative for single-use plastic straws since they can be thrown in the compost bin when you’re done. Buluh Straws are quite popular for staying away from plastic straws
  • Metal or Stainless Steel Straws

      • Because it’s durable, easy to clean, and compact enough to carry in a purse or backpack, metal might be the most common reusable straw you see. Remember that metal straws transfer heat easily, so they are not ideal for consuming hot beverages. You can order a set of SipWell stainless steel straws for a reasonable price ( $4.89 for a pack of 4)!
  • Edible Seaweed Straws

      • Because seaweed is an easy, carbon-sucking plant to grow, it makes sense to grow it for straws. Seaweed straws have a similar texture to plastic, but due to their compostable nature, they don’t pose a threat to marine life. In fact, quite the contrary. If you don’t end up eating your straw and it makes its way into the ocean, it will quickly biodegrade into food for marine animals! You can’t currently purchase this straw, but it will be available very soon by Loliware so stay tuned on their website for updates
  • Wheat Straws

    • Wheat straws are single-use straws that don’t cause harm to our environment. Similar to bamboo straws, they’re made from 100% natural materials—wheat stems. Because this is a material that’s typically treated as waste in agriculture production, converting this waste into straws allows you to help save natural resources. The best thing about wheat straws is their total biodegradability, so you can use your straw once and then compost it. Wheat straws are by far the best option for people who need single-use straws for any occasion. YesStraws offers wheat straws in long and short sizes plus you can choose different amounts of straws in a pack.

Refuse, Reuse, and Take the Next Steps Now 

Just because we’ve been using plastic straws for a few decades now does not give us a reason to keep using them. There are so many great plastic straw alternatives (such as the ones listed above) to choose from that we can definitely ditch the non-recyclable, non-compostable, non-biodegradable plastic straws that are filling landfills and oceans once and for all. 

Refusing single-use plastics is one of the many steps you can take to help create a more sustainable planet. Visit kiwienergy.us to learn about how you can make energy choices that can also have a lasting impact.