Why Plastic Straws are Bad for the Environment
They may be small and something that rarely crosses our minds, but plastic straws are associated with BIG environmental impacts.
Plastic Straws Environmental Impact
If we’re out to eat and sipping on a beverage, we’re likely to use a straw. In doing so, an average American will use 1.6 straws every day. As a whole, this country uses enough straws daily to circle the equator (24,901 miles) more than two times.
Since Americans use an estimated 500 million straws every day, what happens to the 182 billion straws used every year? Well, they end up in landfills, incinerators, or as toxin-releasing litter like microplastics in our environment.
Although plastic straws are a relatively small contribution to total plastic pollution by weight, they are very problematic. About 8.3 billion of them are currently polluting the world’s beaches. As a result, around 90% of sea turtle species and seabirds now contain plastic in their stomachs. By 2030, ocean plastic is predicted to outweigh fish 3-to-1.
When they’re not getting lodged in the stomachs of marine animals, they’re wreaking havoc on our planet. Straws are not recyclable and are even a nuisance to recyclers as they can jam plastic recycling machinery.
Their lightweight nature makes it easy for them to become litter in our parks, streets, and beaches. They’re known to clog drainages and pollute soil and waterways, where they may persist for more than 200 million years.
Plastic Straws may Harm Human Health
Worse, straws join other plastic-based materials in contributing to microplastic pollution. These tiny particles can infiltrate the soil, water, animals, and even humans. In fact 80% of humans have detectable levels of microplastics in their blood.
Straws are also one of the things you think you can recycle but can’t. Plastic straws are made from polypropylene, a petroleum byproduct marked as #5 plastic with the notoriously misleading plastic recycling numbers.
What’s Wrong with Sustainable Alternatives to Straws?
While sustainable alternatives initially appeared to be a silver bullet solution to replace plastic straws, many have shortcomings.
While paper may be ideal for compostable to-go boxes, we’ve all experienced their mushiness. Research has found that hot liquid temperatures will reduce up to 90% of their compressive strength in less than 30 minutes.
Most people have experienced this in cold liquid temps too. Additionally, paper straws use glues to adhere them. The colorful ones also use dyes, neither of which have any business being in a drink!
Reusable Metal and Bamboo Straws
While metal straws are a durable solution in beverages of all temperatures, their higher price point makes wide-scale adoption difficult. Bamboo straws provide similar durability, but without utmost attention being paid to cleaning, they can get moldy. Like paper straws, those made with metal or bamboo may also impart strange flavors into our beverages.
PLA straws emerged as one of the best ways to avoid plastic or paper straws. Made from certified compostable bioplastic made from plant sugars. Derived from cassava, sugar cane, sugar beet, or cornstarch, PLA, or polylactic acid, has found success in a range of products. From compostable cold cups to clear clamshell containers, PLA is proving effective as a replacement plastic.
However, PLA-based products ideally only serve those with access to commercial composting facilities. PLA generally requires the high temperature, oxygen, and microbial conditions of an industrial composting plant. Despite the upstream benefits of using compostable plastic, this limits who can compost it.
That said, PLA straws were the most feasible alternative to plastic straws until PHA straws hit the market.
Why PHA Straws are the Best
PHA (or Polyhydroxyalkanoates) is a new biopolymer that is proving to be superior for straws. Their similarity in performance to traditional plastic, ease of compostability, and price are impossible to match with other polymers.
Certified Home Compostable per TUV's OK compost, they will break down in your home compost bin or a commercial compost facility. They are also Certified Marine degradable which makes them ideal for coastal usage as straws can unintendedly blow into the ocean. For more information check out our Guide to PHA.
PHA Straws are available in a variety of sizes and case quantities at wholesale prices.
We carry a range of individually wrapped PHA straws, wide smoothie straws, and even PHA cocktail stirrer straws. Get in touch today for a free sample and to see what this cutting-edge bio-based polymer is all about.