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Paper Straws vs Plastic Straws

It is great that we are living in a world where people want to be more environmentally conscious and aware. However, people can easily be prey to following trends through misleading information and advertising.

 

What’s the Deal with Plastic Straws?

Plastic straws become a large problem for the environment after they are thrown away. Plastic straws are generally made of either polypropylene or polystyrene. Both of these plastics are thermoplastic which means they can be melted down and reused, ie: recycled, if they are properly disposed of.

However, plastic straws are not considered biodegradable and often remain in the environment for a long time before breaking down.

 

So Paper is Better Right?

WRONG.

It’s true, paper straws aren’t as harmful as plastic straws, however, paper straws can still have many negative environmental effects, especially if they are improperly disposed.

For one, many people believe that paper products are less resource-intensive to manufacture than plastic straws. Unfortunately, this is a huge misconception.

In fact, paper products in general require more energy and resources to manufacture than plastic products. For example, the production of paper bags uses four times as much energy as the production of plastic ones. In general, more greenhouse gases are emitted during the production of paper products than their plastic counterparts.

Even though paper straws should biodegrade, they also have the ability to harm animals if they are littered and end up in the wilderness, just like plastic straws.

One of the main arguments for the environmental-friendliness of paper over plastic straws is that paper is biodegradable. This is not necessarily true.  Just because regular paper is biodegradable, doesn’t mean that paper straws are biodegradable. What’s more, the term biodegradable can have different definitions, and can sometimes be misleading:

The term biodegradable actually refers to The Environmental Protection Department’s “Biodegradability Testing Guideline”. If the carbon matter of the any material decreases by 60% between 56-60 degrees Celsius within 180 days it can be considered biodegradable. Therefore so-called biodegradable materials could be around for a lot longer than 180 days and, even then, they don’t disappear completely.

Another matter to consider is that most cities generally do not compost our waste products or leave them in nature to biodegrade. Think about it: If you go to any restaurant, there isn’t ever a ‘compost bin’. Instead, your paper straws will most likely go into the normal trash and end up in a landfill. Landfills are designed to prevent decomposing so your paper straw and plastic straw will be happy neighbours for a very long time.

 

What about Recycling?

Most recycling facilities will not accept food-contaminated paper products. Since paper absorbs liquids, it may be the case that your paper straws will not be recycled. Plastic straws on the other hand may be cleaned as they do not absorb any external substance.

 

What about Alternatives?

There are a few popular alternatives. Metal straws become a hit however they too encountered much scrutiny. Metal straws are: expensive, come across similar manufacturing problems as paper straws, have had many recorded issues for people who are disabled, are sensitive to heat and ultimately, even though some end up in home bars, most still end up in landfills.

The better alternative is the Koffie Straw which is a silicone, reusable, recyclable straw.  (*cough cough*, for those that don’t know, silicone is a plastic…and look, it’s not all bad)

It will remain room temperature even if a drink is piping hot. It’s thin enough to fit through the slit in a hot coffee cup, flexible enough to fold up into any bag and carry around, and dishwasher-safe (although it also comes with a pipe cleaner to scrub out the insides). It comes in two. Best of all, silicone is durable and lasts forever, but when the straw’s ready to toss, just burn it. The Koffie will turn into 100 percent biodegradable ash.” 1

 

Conclusion

Both paper and plastic straws are harmful to the environment. Paper straws still have large environmental consequences and are definitely not eco-friendly. Both, are a single-use waste item.  If someone truly wants to make a difference now, they would just stop using either paper and plastic straws. Go straw-less!!

The bottom-line society has a huge litter problem. We can only hope that through education and new systems, that governments and societies put in place in the future, will change our waste production and waste management for the better.

For a fun way to upcycle your disposable straws click here: 23 Practical Ways to Reuse Disposable Straws

SOURCES

1 http://nymag.com/strategist/article/best-reusable-straws.html
https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-07-15/people-make-it-so-hard-to-ditch-plastic-straws
https://get-green-now.com/environmental-impact-paper-vs-plastic-straws/
https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/why-glass-jars-arent-necessarily-better-for-the-environment-than-plastic-ones/2014/06/23/2deecfd8-f56f-11e3-a606-946fd632f9f1_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.c1067386ec4d
https://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/23-practical-ways-reuse-disposable-straws/

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