Need a Straw? Find a SUITABLE ALTERNATIVE if you must.......
Need a Straw?
Find a SUITABLE ALTERNATIVE if you must.......
Our curly plastic straw once seen as a harmless garnish to our tropical cocktails will spend the next few centuries floating around the ocean! We use it for about twenty minutes and discard it - without a thought for where it will land! `We need to re evaluate the impact of the everyday items we use - even this sexy looking straw.
Why fight the straw?
Traditional plastic straws are made of polypropylene, a petroleum based plastic known for its cheap and easy to produce nature. Polypropylene has a high melting point making it suitable for its use with hot food and resists acids and bases.
But this thin plastic tube DOES NOT biodegrade EVER.
- Every piece of plastic remains eternally in our environment. The very nature of its chemical composition makes it impossible to biodegrade. At most, it might photo degrade into tiny pieces which are then very easily ingested by marine animals and to us through the food chain.
- This plastic is characterized by its long carbon chain that reacts with oxygen and UV rays. The plastic breaks down and leaches toxins and microplastics into the soil and ocean.
- If recycled, only a small percentage goes through the process and only once, after which it lands in the landfill and the ocean.
- If incinerated, it releases toxic dioxins into the air which settles into our crops and through the food chain bioaccumulate into humans and animals.
It is easy to pass the buck - consumers blame businesses, businesses put the onus on the demands of the consumers - and we all quietly carry on with our ingrained harmful habits. Both businesses and individuals need to change their attitude and behaviour.
We are seeing more and more calls to reduce the use of plastic straws in campaigns and many businesses and even airlines have either reduce the use of straws or change to more eco-friendly alternatives.
What can consumers and businesses?
- Consumers - ASK FOR NO STRAW when ordering a drink.
- Do we use a straw at home? NO!
- Businesses - SERVE STRAWS UPON REQUEST – put a notice on your ordering counter, as part of the menu card "Straws served upon request".
- This practice has shown that about 50 to 90 percent of patrons will not ask for a straw.
- SAVINGS for businesses and for the community in waste hauling, landfill and most importantly removing a useless single use plastic item from the environment.
While the best solution to the straw epidemic may be to completely eliminate them from our lives, we must realize that there are situations where that may not be an option. If we must use a straw then we might as well do it in the most eco friendly way possible. Current eco friendly solutions to the problem of straw pollution include glass, stainless steel, paper, bamboo and biodegradable/compostable PLA straws. Although all these options are better than the current polypropylene based straw as they will not end up as permanent flotsams in our oceans, each have their benefits and limitations.
Paper straws are good eco- alternative, especially the uncoated paper straws. They use no petroleum to make and decompose even faster than bioplastic straws. Along with the rate at which they decompose, they do not affect the organic nature of the compost. While bioplastics decomposes into soil under controlled conditions, the paper straws freely decompose into nature. If a straw accidentally makes its way out of the cycle of disposal and slips off into your neighbourhood park, you can rest easy knowing it will only be there a few weeks before it melts away. However, its limitation is its sturdiness.
McDonalds which supplies 1.8 million straws to its four million UK customers each day, switched to paper straws this year in its effort to take “significant steps to reduce their environmental impact". However the paper straw ‘dissolves’ in drinks instigating a petition from some consumers for the return of the plastic straw. McDonald's has said their suppliers have made paper straws that last "at least 30 minutes in most, if not all liquids" and the technology is still evolving.
PLA (polylactic acid) Straws
PLA straws are made from renewable resources, such as sugarcane or corn starch. They are the best option because they feels like plastic and are very sturdy, but made from zero plastic and 100% compostable in an industrial composting facility.
The main difference between bioplastics and regular plastic is the end of its life. With faster breakdown times in controlled decomposition, PLA straws can be discarded alongside food waste to be biodegraded in months.
Element Packaging offers both paper straws for drinks and smoothies as well as PLA straws which are strong, 100% plastic free and compostable, and will not ‘dissolve’ in the drink.
Element offers a full range of products - home compostable, compostable and biodegradable.