In the United States alone, it is estimated that roughly 500 million plastic straws are used – and discarded – every single day. As a society, we’re used to one-time-use products, even though they are horrible for the environment.
Because of this, many people are switching to paper straws instead. But are paper straws any better? The use of paper straws has a huge advantage over using plastic straws. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of using paper straws.
|Pros of paper straws||Cons of paper straws|
|They decompose faster than plastic||They can get soggy quicker|
|They will not leave plastic particles in the soil||They can’t be reused|
|They won’t clog up waterways||They cost slightly more|
Pros of Switching to Paper Straws
Here are the top pros of using paper straws instead of plastic.
1. Paper straws decompose faster than plastic
Most people know that plastic straws are bad for the environment, mostly because they take a long time to decompose in landfill. Paper straws that are made from 100% paper will break down fast, in as little as a few days.
Paper straws take roughly 3 days to decompose when placed in the landfill, as opposed to plastic straws, which can take up to 300 years.
This means that paper straws will break down, will not clog waterways or be swallowed by wildlife and will break down when they are thrown away.
2. Paper straws will not destroy waterways
Another issue to look at when trying to compare paper versus plastic straws is the effect they each have when they get into the waterways. Paper will disintegrate when it gets into water and will mean that wildlife are less likely to consume them and choke.
Paper straws will break down in a few days in water instead of floating around causing harm.
Plastic straws, on the other hand, remain as they are and essentially block up dams and other waterways, wreaking havoc on the environment. They take hundreds of years to disintegrate, and even when they do, they leave behind tiny amounts of plastic in the water.
It takes a long time (if ever) to completely get rid of plastic straws, but 100% paper straws will completely disintegrate and leave nothing behind.
The Disadvantages of Switching to Paper Straws
There are some disadvantages to be aware of when switching to paper straws. Check out this list to find out what they are.
3. Paper straws can have a wax coating
One of the few disadvantages of paper straws is that some of them are manufactured with some type of coating or wax over them, and the result is that they take much longer to decompose in the landfill.
Some of them take years to decompose because of that coating. For this reason, it’s best to find straws that are 100% paper or that have only a very small percentage of wax in them.
The higher the content of paper is in the straw that you buy, the more easily it will decompose once it gets into the landfill.
4. Paper straws can get soggy quicker
Paper straws can get soften quickly, which happens more frequently when you’re using them to sip hot drinks. Because of this, if you use them for a long period of time the straw can quite literally fall apart at some point.
Metal straws are a great alternative if you are drinking hot drinks at home. You can wash them and reuse them and they won’t get soggy or break into pieces.
5. Paper straws can cost more
Plastic straws can be slightly cheaper to purchase in the first instance. A packet of plastic straws can be $1-$2 less than plastic in stores. When you compare the prices side by side, the difference between the two types is fairly minimal.
How paper straws are made
Manufacturers use high-quality, food-grade, and biodegradable materials when making paper straws. They will also use food-grade ink and other eco-friendly raw materials.
Even commercial companies, including Starbucks and American Airlines, are switching to paper straws so that their customers realize their commitment to protecting the environment.
You can usually only use paper straws once before they are no longer useful. Even so you can feel good about the fact that they will immediately start to disintegrate as soon as they get to the landfill.
When it comes to paper straws, the entire manufacturing process is much more eco-friendly. But it isn’t just the process of making the straws that is better for the environment. It’s also the use of those straws that is a lot more eco-friendly than using plastic straws.
All the way around, using paper straws is a huge advantage over using plastic straws. If you care about the environment, you’ll soon realize this is your best option. To be honest, the only advantage of using plastic straws over paper straws is the fact that plastic straws are a little cheaper, but if you compare the price per-straw of each type, you’ll notice how insignificant the cost difference is.
Even economically, the advantages of using paper straws outweigh those of plastic straws.
The debate between paper vs. plastic will likely continue, but when it comes to paper and plastic straws, the choice seems pretty clear. Paper straws break down faster and will not clog waterways or pose a risk to wildlife. Whether you have a business or you’re just trying to figure out what type of straws to use in your home, choosing paper straws is always worth it.
I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.