Reusable straws have gained much attention over the last few years. Now, when visiting almost any supermarket you may find a bunch of eco-friendly straws made from various materials on sale at the register.
What is the best material for reusable straws? Metal straws made from recycled stainless steel are superior in sustainability and durability. They will last for up to 5 years if taken care of and have minimal impact on the quality of your drinking experience. Using no straw at all is the best choice for the environment.
Our need for reusable straws will continue as we battle against plastic pollution and countries continue to introduce plastic straw bans. Using this guide, you can decide on which is the best reusable straw for you.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Plastic Straws
It’s estimated that nearly 390 million single-use plastic straws are used every day in the USA alone. The vast majority of which end up in landfills or our oceans. Plastic straws take up to 500 years or more to decompose which is putting a significant strain on our land, water, and marine life.
They Poison the Land
Plastic straws take an incredibly long time to decompose meaning that, over time, they take up a huge amount of space in our landfills. Landfills are growing exponentially and serve as giant trash cans on our planet.
The issue with plastic sitting in landfills is not just about space but the toxic chemicals plastic leaches into the ground during the 500 years of decomposition. As plastic decomposes, it also releases harmful gases into the atmosphere such as methane a key driver of global warming.
They Harm Our Waters & Marine Life
A huge quantity of plastic straws ends up in our waters including the ocean, rivers, lakes, and streams. This is due to careless human behavior in which people do not dispose of their straws properly, leaving them on the beach or by the lake after a day of enjoying themselves.
Plastic waste that enters our waters slowly release toxic chemicals and breaks down into microplastics in the water which pollutes the quality of water and finds it’s way inside the bodies of marine life which can seriously harm or even kill them.
What Is the Best Material for Reusable Straws?
So now we know that plastic straws are detrimental to our land, water, and marine life, it’s time to consider which material is best for reusable straws. To do this, we have broken down the top three most popular alternative materials (metal, bamboo, and glass) and reviewed their sustainability, durability, usability, maintenance, and safety.
To create stainless steel, a lot of energy and resources go into its production making metal straws initially environmentally unfriendly.
However, when you take into consideration the durability of stainless steel which can be anything from 3-5 years, this makes stainless steel much more sustainable than it’s rivals. If you buy a metal straw made from recycled steel, then you can be sure that your metal straw is the most environmentally sustainable straw you can buy.
As mentioned above, stainless steel straws can last a long time if cared for properly. A metal straw should last around 3-5 years if cared for properly. This makes metal straws the most durable reusable straw on the market.
Metal straws are great to use. They won’t affect the taste of your beverage if regularly cleaned and they won’t change the temperature of your beverage either. Some people will enjoy the fact that metal straws make their cold beverages even colder. However, watch out for hot drinks as the metal will heat up quickly leaving you vulnerable to burnt lips.
Metal straws are usually sold with a small cleaning brush that you can shove down either end of the straw to clear out any dirt from the inside. You can wash under warm soapy water or just throw them in the dishwasher. This makes metal straw maintenance pretty simple.
It’s always best to buy stainless steel as it is typically made using 18/8 steel which means it is food grade safe. Anyone with a nickel allergy should not buy a metal straw and consider one of the alternative materials below.
Bamboo is an incredible plant that grows quickly without the use of any harsh chemicals or pesticides. Bamboo is one of few plants that actually improves the fertility of the soil it grows in.
You should always aim to buy bamboo straws that are small pieces of bamboo that act like nature’s straws, not those blended with other materials to form the shape of a straw. Always look for organic bamboo straws to ensure the most ethical production methods have been used.
A good bamboo straw will last you about 6-12 months until it needs replacing. This time you will notice some general wear and tear of the bamboo fiber.
Bamboo straws are natures straw, they feel great to use with a natural feel. Bamboo straws won’t change the temperature of your beverage. If you leave a bamboo straw in boiling or hot water for too long you may experience a “woody” or “grassy” aftertaste.
Bamboo straws are simple to care for. Bamboo material enjoys being washed in cold water with no soap and left to dry naturally in the sun. This will help keep your straw strong and last longer. Bamboo has natural anti-microbial properties that keep your straw clean from bacteria. You can still wash with soap every now and then to be sure.
Bamboo is completely safe to use. The plant grows with no toxic chemicals or pesticides and it has natural anti-microbial properties that actually exterminate bacteria and repels mold.
Most glass straws are made using recycled glass making them ultra-sustainable. Even if your glass straw should break, you can recycle it again. Glass straws are also highly durable if you buy good quality.
A good quality glass straw will last you just as long as a metal straw if cared for properly. A quality glass straw will be made using tempered and layered glass making it strong enough for everyday use.
This doesn’t make your glass straw unbreakable and most people lose their glass straws by accidentally breaking them. Make sure you store the glass straw in a small pouch or case when not using it or traveling.
Glass is a great material for a straw as it can transfer hot liquids without burning the user. There are also no strange tastes imparted on the user.
Glass straws have the added advantage of being transparent which means you can physically see the dirt building up inside. Using the small brush that should be sold with your glass straw, simply give the inside a scrub until clean. You can put glass straws in the dishwasher for convenience.
Glass is 100% safe to use as a straw. However, you should always carry your glass straw in a protective pouch or case to avoid breaking it. You don’t want to reach into your bag and slice your hand on the broken glass. Always check your straw is damage free before sipping to avoid any shards of glass cutting your lip or being swallowed.
Other Reusable Straw Materials To Consider
Food-grade reusable silicone straws are becoming increasingly popular. They work very well with both freezing cold and piping hot beverages. They’re also able to take on many shapes, designs, and colors that appeal to those who want a personalized straw.
Silicone is not a well-studied material and at this point is thought to be stable and not leach chemicals into your drink or the environment when disposed of. This research is not yet conclusive.
Single-use recycled paper and cardboard straws are other options for reusable straws. They work well for a couple of drinks but then need to be disposed of. This is isn’t the best choice for the environment when considering the advantages of the other materials discussed above.
If made from recycled steel, metal straws are the most sustainable and practical choice for your new reusable straw. Bamboo and glass are both great alternatives but don’t compete with metal on durability or sustainability.
Of course, the very best choice you can make for the environment will always be to use no straw at all.