As a manufacturer of Paper Drinking Straws, we hope that consumers shift away from single-use plastics like plastic straws. There are plenty of options, including paper straws, bioplastic straws, reusable straws, or even sipping from the edge of a glass. However, some of these options are more sustainable and more beneficial to the environment than others.
The idea that we can stop using plastic straws and switch to something safe and identical is very appealing. This similar experience is what makers of bioplastic straws are after. Unfortunately, it isn’t true. There are benefits to bioplastic straws, but the drawbacks are significant. Without question, the best environmental choice is to drink from the edge of a glass. However, if you’re going to use a disposable straw, we recommend paper.
Drinking a cool beverage with a bioplastic straw feels just like using plastic. They will melt in a hot drink over 157º F. However, they are smooth, taste-free, and can even be colorful. Unlike poorly made paper straws, they do not fall apart while you’re using them (side note: BOSS straw paper drinking straws are 24-hours strong). This equivalent experience is enticing, but it also poses a problem. But, before we explore drawbacks, there are environmental benefits.
Bioplastic breaks down in the ideal composting environment within a matter of months rather than hundreds of years. Manufacturing bioplastic using plant sources reduces fossil fuel demand, and when made with PLA plastic, it shouldn’t contain pollutants or dangerous BPAs.
Although there are real benefits to bioplastic over plastic, there are serious drawbacks. Mimicking the experience of plastic while pleasing to the consumer is also a problem. The consumer cannot tell the difference between bioplastic and plastic, which creates a problem in the trash bin. Decomposing bioplastic requires specific composting conditions. To properly recycle plastic, the lot cannot be contaminated with bioplastic. The expectation that consumers will place the correct trash in the proper container is a stretch. Furthermore, much of the world lacks the composting infrastructure to decompose bioplastic.
What’s worse is that PLA straws do not degrade in water, making them as harmful to sea life as plastic straws. When they do happen to breakdown in soil and water, they increase the acidity in the environment. PLA is polylactic acid, and therefore acidic. Ph imbalance can kill marine life and harm young plants. A wholesale increase of PLA in the environment is not ideal.
Switching from plastic to bioplastic is hardly a switch at all. It’s possibly worse. Bioplastic lulls the consumer into believing they are helping the environment when it is the least beneficial replacement to plastic.
The common misconception that paper straws fall apart was caused by a few manufacturers, primarily in China, that produced vast quantities of junk straws. Quality paper drinking straws, like BOSS straw, do not turn to mush in your mouth. You can tell the difference between a BOSS straw and a plastic straw, but the experience is pleasant where it matters most.
With any disposable product, there is an element of waste. Manufacturing, packaging, and delivery of the product and raw materials require energy. We are proud that Enviro Sip Straw’s BOSS straw is eco-friendly. We are working hard to offset our environmental footprint, source sustainable materials, and be a positive force toward supporting our environment, from climate change to wildlife safety.