The Last Straw? Nope.
In the last eighteen months, we’ve seen a surge in concern over plastic waste — everything from “marine plastics” to single use plastics like the venerable plastic drinking straw. It seems like after decades of giving the ubiquitous gulp gadget scant thought, straws are now on everybody’s mind, leading to plastic straw bans by restaurants, catering companies, airlines, national chains, cities, states, and even entire countries.
This global alarm over plastic straws and the environmental harm they symbolize has led to the emergence of a variety of plastic straw alternatives with far better life cycle stories to tell. There are reusable straws made of steel, silicone and durable plastics. There are all manner of plant-based, biodegradable straws, including straws made from bamboo and cornstarch, and there are paper straws from the same wood pulp that goes into paper and paper-based packaging.
Paper-based straws are the immediate, and planet-friendly substitute. They have already come a long way since they were introduced to the market, and the demand is now so great that suppliers can barely keep up. Though not everyone is completely in love with paper straws —consumers are figuring out which paper straws work best and that, in turn, is driving competitors in the market to step up.
People shouldn’t feel bad about wanting products—like say, straws—that don’t require constant cleaning and washing. The humble straw has become a symbol for our times, a reminder of those small conveniences we want and take for granted. There is no doubt paper and paper-based packaging will be called on even more in the weeks and months ahead to innovate and provide more sustainable products as concerns about the planet proliferate.