Never has a product garnered so much disdain as the humble straw, it’s the poster boy of single use plastic waste and for good reason. In the UK alone we throw away 8.5 billion straws every single year which is apparently enough to fill the Royal Albert Hall a thousand times!
Luckily change is afoot, the UK government revealed plans to ban the sale of single-use plastics in a report outlining their approach the government estimate 316 million plastic stirrers are used every year and 1.8 billion plastic cotton buds are used of which 10% are flushed into our waterways and end up in the ocean. The ban is currently under consultation but expect it to come into force sometime between October 2019 and October 2020. Obviously this ban is targeted at reducing the amount of single use plastic used by consumers and makes provisions for legitimate needs such as medical reasons.
Whilst we await this ban I’ve been putting the first ‘R’ into practice in the local cocktail bars of Cheltenham which is to Refuse. This works 8 out of 10 times but often drink orders are taken and then mixed up by someone else, the message isn’t relayed or simply the barman is on autopilot and chucks them in anyways. I’ve even spotted a few sheepishly removing plastic straws from cocktails after mixing them up and chucking them in the bin! I don’t blame them, if its not a usual part of their everyday then its easily overlooked so the more of us who put refuse into practice the easy it’ll be for them to remember.
Whilst I refuse the single use plastic I do still like to use a straw, when you are spending £9 on a cocktail you still want to get the full experience. This is why I decided to write a review of reusable straws for you, I’ve had the chance to test out a couple of different types over the last 2 years and here’s the best of bunch, including silicone, stainless steel, glass, bamboo and even wheat straws.
Starting with our favourite straws, if you read no further than this then you’ll have at least ended up with a very good set of long lasting straws. Extra wide for smoothie lovers these are the straws which have seen the most use and haven’t let us down, made from food safe certified silicone the soft straw is malleable but doesn’t lose its shape even after a few trips through the dishwasher. They’re supplied with a microfiber pouch which mops up any liquid left on the straw and saved worry about getting any sugary drinks in your bag or pocket after use, which is a real plus when you’ve had a syrupy Frappuccino. Whilst this tops our list for usability and feel these are also the most expensive straws on the list, coming in at around £12 they are somewhat of an investment for the humble straw.
Most people will be surprised to learn that wheat straws are thing and actually make a great alternative disposable straw, saving you the hassle of taking a straw home to be cleaned. I keep a few of these in my car just in case the need arises when out and about. Where I think they outshine paper straws is they are non-porous and therefore don’t go soggy, which in my opinion is the worst thing about paper straws.
Naturally biodegradable they wont need any industrial processing to be turned into compost. The ones we love are by Turtle Straws who donate 10% of profits into Ocean Cleanup.
Originally I avoided glass straws, thinking that they might break or simply not be robust enough to live in my bag. After being given a set of these as a present I’ve completely changed my opinion and gone on to gift glass straws with a bottle of their favoured poison to many friends. Being hand made from the same glass used in laboratories pyrex dishes they are each inspected for breakages before being shopped out. What I particularly like about glass straws is that you can see through them and be completely satisfied that they are clean before reusing them, that peace of mind is really important to people are just setting out on the road to sustainable living and what I think makes these particular ones a great gift for getting people into the sustainable lifestyle.
Where I think the cocktail bars are missing a trick is in matching straws to cocktails and bamboo straws go exceptionally well with Rum cocktails giving them a tiki bar feel, ideal for a summer bbq party. These bamboo straws are handmade in Bali from sustainably farmed bamboo. You can put them in the dishwasher but with all things made of wood they wont last as long if you, once they have come to end of their useful life they can be composted, although you’ll want to chop them up into little bits first as wood takes a while longer than plant matter to compost down properly.
With potentially the widest selection of any of our options here today, the stainless steel straw market seems to have boomed overnight. One company providing a well priced stainless steel straw kit with bag and cleaning gear is Collingwood Ecoware who are a family run business making a few well priced sustainable alternatives to the usual plastic products. Completely dishwashers safe stainless steel straws will last the test of time and if you want something to drop in the bottom of your bag and forget about until needed then these are likely to be the best choice for you, however we do wonder how much energy is required to manufacture these straws.
Whilst I’ve linked through to amazon for these products you can pick up some excellent plastic straw alternatives in zero waste shops across the country, that’s why we’re working our way through reviewing the best zero waste and sustainable shops in this great land , so far we’ve been to Scotland, Wales, North East and North West England, the East Midlands and West Midlands too with more to follow.
Whilst we have reviewed these straws based on our experiences with them, Sustainable Shoppers is a participant in the Amazon services LLC associates program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to amazon.co.uk and affiliated sites.