Single-use plastic has become a bone of contention for activists around the world forcing companies to find eco-friendly alternatives. One of the most common steps that companies are taking is the move from plastic straws to paper straws. In fact, the discussion about plastic straws has escalated in many regions, with Seattle becoming the largest city in the United States to “out and out” ban the use of plastic straws back in July 2018. There are many reasons the move from plastic to paper straws makes sense from both an environmental and business savvy standpoint.
Big Business Looking for Solutions
Major companies including Starbucks and McDonald’s are seeking ways to eliminate plastic drinking straws. There are an estimated 700 million straws used in North America every day. When looking in global terms, it is estimated upwards of 8.3 billion plastic straws are contributing to the pollution of beaches around the world. These numbers make it obvious something must be done to reduce the damage straws are causing the planet. Paper straws are leading the charge.
Plastic and the Ocean
With the increase in single-use plastics like straws, oceans and landfills are piling up with excess, unnecessary waste. Plastic is so prevalent that it creates “garbage patches” in the ocean when ocean currents push the debris together. These gyres are a natural occurrence that clashes with the unnatural appearance of plastics. The result is masses of microplastics that settle on the ocean floor and also create a gelatinous, cloudy mass in the water. In fact, these masses are so large, the most famous is twice the size of Texas. Known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or the Pacific Trash Vortex, just 1 percent of the plastic waste is seen on the surface. The rest has become part of the deep-sea sediments on the ocean floor.
Benefits of Paper Straws
Paper straws have many benefits including:
- They are biodegradable unlike plastic straws
- They only take about two to six weeks to completely decompose unlike plastic straws that can take 200 years
- Moving to paper straws will automatically reduce the number of plastic straws used resulting in a smaller footprint
- Businesses will find they are quite affordable when purchased in bulk
- Paper straws aren’t harmful to wildlife as they won’t contribute to the microplastics created by plastic straws
The Paper Straw Industry
Paper straws also offer opportunities for companies to start making an alternative to plastic. Sales are skyrocketing and new paper straw startups are popping up everywhere to help meet demand. As this trend rises, plastic companies are being forced to rethink their products whether it is to end production or come up with their own versions of plastic straw alternatives.
Although straw activists feel no straws are the best choice, right now, that isn’t likely to happen. Knowing this is the case, they agree that paper straws offer the best alternative if you’ve got to use a straw. Although they too are single-use, they will be decomposed in months and won’t be found washed up on our beaches or become part of the garbage patch.