They are made in minutes, consumed frivolously, and – since they are not biodegradable – they remain on our earth forever. It is estimated that the average person uses 1.6 straws per day, with 500 million straws used every single day in the US alone. Large multinational corporations, like Starbucks and McDonalds, are already planning to phase out the supply of plastic straws across outlets. In 2020, Starbucks will stop using plastic straws and move purely to sustainable options. Alaska Airlines will be one of the first airlines to phase out plastic straws and stirrers. And, as of June 2019, Bali has instated a bill prohibiting all single-use plastic on the island. In the hospitality industry, where millions of amenities are consumed globally each day, we have long seen a need to provide plastic alternatives to these and, here at Palatino, we are proud to offer a complete eco-friendly range, including several plastic straw alternatives.
The main issue is their size. Even if the straws do make it to the recycling stage – and the vast majority do not – very often most don’t make it through the mechanical recycling sorter because they are too small and lightweight.
Plastic straws are made from polypropylene, mixed with colorants and plasticizers. Plastic is not biodegradable. That means that it does not break down into compounds that can be easily reused. It takes years to break down plastic particles. Plastic straws contribute to petroleum consumption and part of global plastic pollution when discarded after a single use. For this reason, when the plastic is not recycled, it ends up in the ocean where it stays forever, causing fatal consequences to marine animals, who consume the chemical-laden material or become entangled in the plastic debris.
National Geographic published a study earlier this year which estimated that as much as 8.3 billion plastic straws pollute the world’s beaches. As a result of this, 90% of marine animals have eaten plastic, posing huge threats to sea turtles, sea birds and deep sea fish.
Paper straws are biodegradable and have several advantages to plastic, primarily given their ability to disintegrate easily. In salt water, a paper straw will break down in 6 months. If they are properly composted, paper straws break down in just two months. This is favourable in terms of hygiene, as it means that they can be single-use.
In terms of aesthetics, paper is a highly versatile medium to work with, meaning that our clients are able to 100% customise their straws and differentiate from the rest through the addition of logos, patterns, and colours, working with a range of shapes and sizes, making paper straws an easy, yet strong, communication tool. For instance, one of the defining markers of a cocktail shared over social media can often be an iconic straw.
Bamboo fibers have natural antimicrobial properties. This means they are less likely to harbor bacteria over time and are more resistant to spoiling or rotting in varied climates. Durable and waterproof, they can also be reused, if properly cleaned.
The other advantage is that we don’t use chemical fertilizers or pesticides to cultivate bamboo.
Sugar cane straws are also a great biodegradable alternative. Like paper straws, sugar cane can break down in 6 months. We can package each straw individually in a recycled paper bag so that it can be personalized. Stronger than paper, sugar cane straws feel natural, and don’t break down in the drink. They also possess a natural colour, indicative of going ‘green’, so it may be more obvious to the end-user that this is an ecological alternative. While, with PLA, this may not be clear and clients may confuse it with plastic.
Also known as polylactide acid, PLA straws are made from renewable plant-based materials. One of the benefits is that PLA straws require 68% fewer fossil fuel resources to produce than traditional plastic and are commercially compostable. Since they are single-use, they are perceived to be more hygienic than reusable straws. Given their durable nature, they also hold well in drinks, both cold and hot.
You can also choose to print a message on your PLA straw to communicate about your #plasticfree commitment.
Think back to that last cocktail you enjoyed in a beautiful setting. An icy drink in a generous glass, with a wedge of fruit and a straw, held against a picturesque background – it’s a popular image posted frequently across social media platforms. Many hotels take advantage of this and use it as a communication tool to strengthen branding and engage with their community. The eco-friendly straw, although such a small accessory, can make a huge difference to the environment and aid in showing your brand commitments and the ecological values of your establishment.
Do your part and ditch the plastic straw !