If you’re still using plastic straws regularly, you’re contributing to the plastic pollution problem.
In the U.S. alone, 500 million straws are used every day, and approximately 8.3 billion plastic straws are creating plastic waste on the world’s beaches, as National Geographic reports.
The good news is that some countries and states are banning plastic straws.
Where are plastic straws banned?
U.S. cities such as Seattle and states such as California have banned plastic straws, and these offenders are also banned in two countries: Seychelles and Vanuatu, as Statista reports.
Let’s look at why you should ditch plastic straws in favour of reusable ones.
We’ll start with why plastic straws are so problematic – for the environment and our health.
- 1 Why We Need To Stop Using Plastic Straws
- 2 Safer Alternatives To Plastic Straws
- 3 How To Clean Your Reusable Straws
- 4 Related Questions
- 5 Conclusion
Why We Need To Stop Using Plastic Straws
You might think using plastic straws isn’t as bad for the environment as using other plastic, such as plastic bags, but they come with many dangers.
- Plastic straws contain harmful chemicals. These include Bisphenol A (BPA) and polypropylene. Both of these release toxic chemicals.
- Plastic straws harm marine life. Various animals in the ocean, such as seals, turtles, whales, and dolphins can be harmed or even killed by plastic pollution. Sometimes animals mistake plastic items such as straws for food, which can result in choking and death. This is especially problematic if you consider that plastic breaks into smaller pieces, known as microplastics, which makes it even easier for marine animals to consume them and fall ill.
- Plastic straws can’t be recycled. They’re so small and lightweight that they can’t get through the mechanical recycling sorter. This causes them to fall through screens that are used for sorting through materials, and when they mix with other materials they’re too small to separate properly, which means they just end up contaminating other materials that can be recycled, as Strawless Ocean reports.
- Plastic straws hang around for hundreds of years. Because plastic doesn’t decompose easily, it’s been predicted by research (via World Economic Forum) that by the year 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by weight.
Safer Alternatives To Plastic Straws
If you love to use plastic straws, you might wonder how you’re supposed to replace them.
But there are tons of alternatives available to you!
Let’s look at some popular straw materials, as well as their pros and cons, so that you can leave plastic behind in favor of reusable straws.
Metal straws are great because they don’t contain toxins you’ll find in plastic straws and they can be reused many times.
They’re also strong, so they won’t suffer wear and tear as easily as plastic – just think of how many times a plastic straw you’ve opened has had a tear in it before even being used!
You can even find stainless steel straws, such as ones by Zero Waste Society. They’re safe to clean in the dishwasher and rust-proof.
One of the drawbacks of metal straws is that they can absorb the temperature of your drink, and this can make them feel very cold or hot when you drink from them.
This can be problematic if you have sensitive teeth.
One of the best things about using glass straws is that they can tolerate hot as well as cold temperatures really well.
They don’t contain toxins like plastic does and you can find glass straws that have designs on them, so you can customize your straws according to your personal style.
Check out the rainbow accent glass straw from Drinking Straws. It also comes with a cleaning brush to make cleaning it inside and out super-easy!
One of the things to be wary of when purchasing glass straws is that they can shatter and break, so always make sure you buy shatterproof straws.
Bamboo straws are worth considering if you want to stop using plastic straws.
This is because when you don’t want to use them anymore you can prevent them from being thrown into the bin by putting them in your compost.
They’re completely biodegradable. When using bamboo straws, you’ll also love that they don’t change the taste of whatever you’re sipping.
Choose bamboo straws such as those by Natural Neo. They come with a cleaning brush included.
One of the potential drawbacks of using bamboo straws instead of plastic ones is that they can become soggy when used for a long time. This can make using them feel unpleasant.
Silicone is becoming a popular alternative to plastic, even for straws! Silicone is durable and strong, while also being very flexible.
Straws made of silicone are tolerant of high temperatures and dishwasher safe, but it’s worth bearing in mind that silicone straws aren’t biodegradable like bamboo straws are.
Silicone also can’t be recycled easily as it’s difficult to find a silicone recycler.
If you love the idea of silicone straws, consider this 12-pack by Hiware. It even comes with a handy case!
How To Clean Your Reusable Straws
Cleaning your reusable straw can be really easy because many straws are sold with cleaning pipes included.
But, what if yours doesn’t have one? How do you clean it to ensure that it remains hygienic and safe for use?
Here are some easy methods to consider.
Boil Reusable Straws In Water
Boiling your reusable straws will help to remove germs, and it’s safe for use on glass, silicone, and stainless steel straws.
You can also add natural cleaning ingredients, such as baking soda and vinegar, to the water to give them an extra clean.
This isn’t a good method to clean your bamboo straws, however, as they will become soggy.
If you’re using this method to clean your glass straws, make sure you never put them in boiling water when they’re cold.
This is because they’re made of borosilicate glass, which can handle very high temperatures but can experience thermal shock if it’s exposed to extreme temperatures too quickly.
Here’s how to clean your reusable straws in boiling water:
- Fill a pot with enough water to submerge your straw. Add vinegar or baking soda to the water if you like.
- Let the water boil for about 10 or 15 minutes.
- Then, allow the water to cool down.
- Rinse the straw with water.
Use Dental String To Clean Reusable Straws
This method is great for all types of reusable straws, including bamboo, and it makes use of dental string, water, and liquid dish soap.
If you don’t want to use dental string, you can use regular string.
Here’s how to do it:
- In a bowl, submerge the straw in water and put in a bit of liquid dish soap.
- Guide a piece of dental string through the straw. This ensures that you can hold it tightly while pulling the straw up and down so that the soapy water can clean the inside of the straw.
- If you want, you can also put some baking soda in the water as baking soda is good at scrubbing items clean.
- When you’re done, rinse the straw.
- If you don’t feel like this is giving your reusable straw a proper clean, try using a long Q-tip instead of dental string.
Deep-Clean Your Reusable Straw With Soap And Water
If you feel like your reusable straw is in need of a deeper clean, like if you’ve just enjoyed a thick smoothie, put it in soapy water overnight.
Then, the next day, put liquid dish soap into the straw while blocking the end of the straw with your thumb.
Then, put warm water into the straw and cover the top while you give the reusable straw a good shake.
This will clean the straw and get rid of any dirt that’s trapped along its inside walls.
When you’re done, you will need to rinse the straw well with water to prevent soap residue.
Can You Wash Reusable Straws In The Dishwasher?
You can wash most reusable straws in the dishwasher.
Put them in an upright position on the utensil rack. This will enable water to spray up into the straw and give it a good clean.
How To Clean Bamboo Reusable Straws
As we’ve already seen, you can’t always clean your bamboo reusable straw in the same way as you would other types of straws because it can become damaged.
So, how should you clean it?
Here are some important tips to follow, especially because bamboo straws can become moldy if you don’t clean and dry them well.
- Some bamboo straws can be put in the dishwasher, but others can’t. Always check the cleaning instructions according to the straw manufacturer’s guidelines before you go ahead.
- You should always wash your bamboo straw after using it to prevent dirt accumulation. Do this by washing it with warm water and some liquid dish soap. However, don’t leave your straw to soak in water for longer than a few minutes as this can cause it to swell.
- After washing them, let your bamboo straws air-dry naturally.
How can you carry your reusable straw?
To ensure your straw stays hygienic, you should purchase a reusable straw sleeve. You can find a range of products on Amazon.
How long will a bamboo straw last?
You’re looking at an average of six months of use, but by cleaning your straw regularly you could extend its lifespan. Metal, glass, and silicone straws will probably last longer than that.
It’s time to say goodbye to plastic in all forms – including your single-use straws.
In this article we’ve outlined some of the best plastic straw alternatives so you can be healthier because you won’t be putting yourself at risk of the chemicals in plastic.
Cheers to that!