According to some estimates, Americans use between 170 million and 390 million plastic straws every single day.
Most of these straws eventually end up in an ocean, where they collect in garbage patches or break down into dangerous microplastics. Plastic straws can also be mistaken for food by turtles and other marine animals. Once swallowed, a plastic straw can choke and kill.
So, do you want to find some eco-friendly substitutes to plastic straws?
Well, you’re in the right place.
Today, I’m going to show you 12 great alternatives to plastic straws. This list includes different types of reusable straws, biodegradable straws, and even instructions to make a DIY straw!
At the end of the article, I’ll give my personal recommendations of the best plastic straw alternatives that you should use.
I’ll also discuss the pros and cons of each type of straw.
Let’s get started!
1. Stainless Steel Straw
Reusable stainless steel straws are a great alternative to plastic straws. They are very durable, easy to transport, and can be reused over and over again.
However, stainless steel straws also come with their own set of disadvantages:
For example, some people complain that they have a metallic taste. You can also hurt yourself if you accidentally bite or clank your teeth against the straw. And, since metal conducts heat, a metal straw wouldn’t be the best idea if you drank a lot of hot beverages.
If you’re looking for a metal straw, my personal recommendation is to get this collapsible straw from Eco-Pals. The straw can be folded into itself and is stored in a small carrying tube, which is no taller than your phone (about 4” or 10 cm).
The Eco-Pal straw is dishwasher-safe and comes with a cleaning brush (which also fits into the carrying tube!). You can click this link to check the current price on Amazon.com.
2. Silicone Straw
Silicone is a hybrid between synthetic rubber and synthetic plastic. Although this technically means that it’s a type of plastic, silicone straws are still heat-resistant, non-toxic, and safe to use. They’re also very durable, and can be reused.
The main advantage of silicone straws is that they are soft and bendy, so they won’t hurt your teeth if you bite into them. They also come in a variety of colours, which some people might like.
3. Glass Straw
Glass straws are another type of reusable straw. Their main advantage is that they are transparent, so it’s easy to tell whether or not they have been properly cleaned. They are also heat resistant and dishwasher safe.
The only issue with glass straws is that they might break if dropped or slammed onto a hard surface.
If you’re looking to buy a glass straw, make sure that it is made out of borosilicate, which is a type of reinforced glass that is shatter-resistant.
For example, these glass straws by Hummingbird are made out of borosilicate (the strong glass I talked about earlier) and are made by hand in the United States. They are a possible option if you’re looking to get stylish, see-through glass straws.
4. Bamboo Straw
Bamboo is a type of strong grass that grows in Asia. A bamboo straw is a reusable straw that can biodegrade naturally, and is durable as well.
5. Just Drink Without a Straw
Have you ever thought about just drinking a drink without using any type of straw?
Simply drinking a drink without a straw is the most eco-friendly way to enjoy your beverage. It’s also the cheapest!
So, next time you go to a restaurant, refuse the straw and just drink out of a normal cup. If you own a restaurant that serves straws, consider serving them only on request.
6. Papaya Leaf Stems (DIY Straw)
If you live in an area with papaya trees, you can make your own DIY straw with a papaya leaf stem. Here’s how:
Cut the leaf stem from the tree using a knife, and then cut the stem to the desired length to make your straw. Be sure to wash the sap off (where the stem was cut) to remove the taste of sap. Be careful if you have sensitive skin, because the sap can be skin-irritating.
You can also watch this video demonstrating how to create a papaya stem straw:
7. Paper Straw
As of now, paper straws are one of the most popular alternatives to plastic straws in fast food restaurants. In theory, they can last a few hours in a cold drink before losing their structure.
However, there are also disadvantages to paper straws. After enough time, they’ll absorb liquid and become soggy. Some people also complain that they have a weird taste, although I haven’t noticed that myself.
Additionally, even though paper straws are supposed to be biodegradable and compostable, not all of them are eco-friendly. Some paper straws contain harmful chemicals and biodegrade very, very slowly.
If you decide to purchase paper straws for your restaurant or bar, make sure to purchase ones that are actually eco-friendly and sustainable, like straws from Aardvark.
8. Pasta Straw
As its name suggests, a pasta straw is a straw made out of pasta.
Pasta straws are biodegradable and can be composted after you finish using them. As long as you don’t place them into boiling water, they will not get soggy quickly.
Pasta straws are extremely cheap (about $0.07 each when bought in bulk) and are a great idea for restaurants who want to replace plastic straws with something biodegradable and eco-friendly, yet durable.
As an added bonus, pasta straws are all natural and biodegrade a lot faster than paper straws. And, since they’re made of pasta, you can even eat them!
If you’d like to buy smaller quantities of pasta straws for your home or for a small event, you can check out this pack of 50 straws on Amazon.com.
9. Hay Straw
Hay straws are another compostable and biodegradable alternative to plastic straws. Hay, otherwise known as a wheat stem, is completely natural and biodegrades (or composts) very quickly.
Hay straws don’t get soggy and can be used in both hot or cold drinks. A pack of 100 hay straws on Amazon.com costs less than $10.
10. Biodegradable Plastic Straw
In theory, “biodegradable” plastic is supposed to be biodegradable. However, the truth is far from reality.
I do not recommend buying biodegradable plastic straws because they aren’t really much different from normal plastic straws. Even “biodegradable” plastic doesn’t always biodegrade, and it can be just as harmful for the environment.
You can learn more in the video below:
11. Edible Straws
Loliware straws are to be made out of seaweed, but have the feel of a plastic straw and can last over 18 hours of continuous use, according to their website. They can be eaten after use, and are also biodegradable.
These straws aren’t available for the general public to purchase yet, but Loliware has apparently started shipping pre-orders to their original Kickstarter backers.
12. Contigo Water Bottle Straw
This (reusable) water bottle by Contigo has a built-in straw that you can drink from. It’s great for people who like sucking from a straw, or for people who aren’t able to drink from normal cups.
I have personally used these water bottles before, and they work as well as any normal bottle. After a while though, the straw/sipping portion of the bottle does get a little hard to clean.
Obviously this isn’t a perfect substitute to a plastic straw, but I’ll add it to this list anyway.
My Personal Recommendations for Plastic Straw Alternatives (2019)
There are many different replacements and alternatives for plastic straws, so how do you choose which one to buy?
Well, here are my personal recommendations and suggestions.
Disclaimer: I haven’t tried all the items on this list, as that would be a big waste of resources, and this is an environmental blog! However, I have tried some of the products on this list, and I’ve read the reviews for others, so I feel like I should know what I’m talking about.
What’s the Best Reusable Straw?
There are four main types of reusable straws: Stainless steel straws, glass straws, silicone straws, and bamboo straws.
Which one should you choose?
Well, in the end, it really depends on personal preference. Most reusable straws are pretty similar. They’re all safe to use, dishwasher-safe, and most come with cleaning brushes as well.
For most people, I would recommend using stainless steel straws, simply because they are so durable. You can get foldable steel straws that collapse into a small and portable carrying case. Or, you can get a set of normal stainless steel straws on Amazon for a lot cheaper.
However, if you need a straw that is soft and bendable, then you should go with silicone straws. These are great for children, or for the disabled looking to transition away from plastic straws.
Bamboo straws, on the other hand, are probably the most environmentally-friendly straws on this list. Buluh bamboo straws are made by hand using 100% natural, sustainable-grown bamboo.
What’s the Best Eco-Friendly Straw for Restaurants & Bars?
If you own a restaurant or bar and you need to serve disposable straws, I would recommend using any type of biodegradable straw.
Paper, pasta, or hay straws can all used as substitutes for plastic straws. Which one you choose will depend on what type of restaurant/establishment you are, and what type of straws you need.
Just make sure that you set up a compost bin for your customers to dispose of your biodegradable straws. Otherwise, your biodegradable straws will just end up in a landfill, where any type of waste can take a long time to decompose.
It’s also important to serve straws only on request, as even biodegradable straws have an environmental impact (they require natural resources to manufacture).
It can be easy to get carried away purchasing different reusable straws. However, it’s worth noting that in the end, using no straw at all will always be the most environmentally friendly option.
Remember that even if a straw is biodegradable or reusable, resources and energy are still required to manufacture the straw and ship it to your home.
Straws also aren’t the only plastic problem that we have. There are countless other single-use plastics that can be removed from our lives. I encourage you to stop using not only plastic straws, but also non-reusable plastic bags, bottles, or any other single-use plastic items.
With that being said, I hope this list has helped you in your quest to find an alternative for that pesky plastic straw.
If you found this article (or my recommendations) helpful, please share this article with your friends using the share buttons below. Together, we can combat plastic pollution and single-use plastic straws.