Paper straws vs plastic straws

After Sir David Attenborough left tens of millions of viewers wide-eyed, amazed and not to mention a little devastated and ashamed in 2017 with his incredible show, Blue Planet II, the monumental problem of single-use plastics was thrown into the spotlight.

We’ve known for many years about the importance of recycling and using sustainable products to protect the environment. But it was only really after the documentary series served up evidence of the damage single-use plastics can cause, that we really started to sit up and take notice.

And that’s despite the graphic and upsetting footage from 2015 which showed a Costa Rican turtle with a plastic straw stuck up its nose.

While no single-use plastics can be considered ‘good’ for the environment, some can have more instant and dangerous consequences than others. This is especially true for wildlife. Plastic rings used on multi-pack beer cans, for example, can be caught around the necks of sea creatures, while as we’ve seen, plastic straws can be equally devastating.

The eight-minute video of the olive ridley sea turtle went viral. It showed the stark reality of the impact these objects can have on animals. A plastic straw had become lodged in the turtle’s nasal cavity, inhibiting both its breathing and sense of smell. Once removed, scientists measured the straw at a whopping 10-centimetres. 

Why are plastic straws so bad?

We already know plastic takes hundreds of years to break down. Single-use plastics, such as straws, are especially damaging due to their short life-span and high-volume usage. They also cannot be recycled.

When you consider the sheer amount of plastic straws used in pubs, clubs, restaurants and homes, it’s clear why, as a society, we’ve created a problem. In the USA, for example, 500 million straws are used every single day. Whether ending up in the sea or piling onto landfill sites, the use of single-use plastic straws simply isn’t sustainable.

Plastic straws are also among the top 10 items collected on beach clean-ups.

But intact straws, while unsightly and dangerous to wildlife, aren’t the only environmental concern.

With the thin, flimsy nature of plastic straws, they quickly break down into tiny particles known as microplastics. These tiny pieces of plastic – often smaller than a millimetre – can work their way into the air, water and food, particularly seafood.

Recent research from the University of Manchester has discovered that slow-moving currents can cause microplastics to accumulate in large quantities within biodiversity hotspots. Their research centred around the Tyrrhenian Sea off the coast of Italy, where they found up to 1.9 million pieces of microplastic per square metre.

While we don’t yet know the full extent of the dangers to health presented by microplastics, there’s little doubt that there are at least some negative implications due to the chemicals in the polymers.

In short, plastic straws aren’t good news.

If plastic straws are so bad, why is nobody doing anything about it?

Well, fortunately they are. Many companies and individuals now have a much better understanding of the environmental damage plastic straws can cause, and are starting to take action.

Huge multinational companies, including Disney, Starbucks and McDonald’s, committed to ending their use of plastic straws in 2018 and began moving to sustainable, eco-friendly alternatives. So, if you grab a frappuccino or a smoothie, you can still happily slurp away. Meanwhile, some US cities such as Seattle and Washington DC have banned plastic straws altogether.

In fact, the paper straw market in the USA alone is forecast to grow from $585 million in 2019 to $1,687 million by 2024.

But more still needs to be done.

What can I do to help?

When everything is considered, plastic straws are basically completely unnecessary. And even the funky, twirly nature of ‘fun straws’ can be considered all a bit 1990s now. 

On top of that, the quality of paper straws has increased ten-fold in recent years. From products that would wilt and fall apart after a minute of use, they have been developed to something which is sturdy, functional and reliable. 

While there are several alternatives to plastic straws on the market, many pubs, cafes and restaurants have turned to paper straws as their solution of choice.

If your company is still looking to phase out plastic straws, Simply Eco Packaging offers a great range of compostable paper straws in a variety of colours and sizes, from small to jumbo.

Our BioStraws are colourful and attention-grabbing but, most importantly, are completely eco-friendly as they contain no plastic at all. While some paper straws are still lined with a small amount of plastic, you can be completely confident that you are doing your bit for the environment by moving to our BioStraws.

They are also manufactured from FSC-certified paper sourced from managed plantations – an extra stamp of both quality and eco-friendliness. 

For additional convenience, the BioStraws are both industrially and home compostable, so they are a great solution to have in your kitchen cupboards as well as for your business. And your awareness of the environment is sure to impress friends who pop round for a drink or a garden full of summer barbeque guests, as much as customers to your cafe or restaurant.

So, make the change today and help ensure no more animals end up like the poor olive ridley sea turtle.