Paper straws are not the answer

Rachel Franklin-Staff Writer

Although plastic straws have been deemed environmentally unfriendly, paper straws, despite their growing popularity, are not a reasonable alternative. These straws are made with several chemicals, annoy customers and can be replaced with several other environmentally friendly options. Instead, consumers should look to replace paper straws with a true solution: hay straws.
Per the bill passed in September by Governor Jerry Brown restricting California’s straw usage, restaurants now may only hand out straws upon request. If an establishment is caught twice not in compliance, it will be fined $25 for each day it’s found to be in violation, not exceeding $300. The law took effect at the beginning of the year, but only applies to “full-service” restaurants. The restriction does not apply to fast food establishments or restaurants not primarily serving food. Still, companies like Starbucks have joined the war on plastic straws by pledging to replace them with strawless lids equipped with built-in openings for all tea, espresso and iced coffee beverages and a straw made of alternative materials (such as paper or compostable plastic) for Frappuccino beverages by 2020. Although straws are only a small fraction of the plastic found in nature, their banishment is a great way to start conversation about greater ways to end plastic pollution. According to the environmental group EcoCycle, Americans use about 500 million disposable straws daily, so there is clear reason to cut back on straw usage and help support a cleaner environment in every way possible.
As a result, paper straws have become an increasingly popular alternative for restaurants such as local Woodland Hills establishment Blu Jam, as they are cheap and ‘natural.’ But, the paper straws are not completely natural. Paper straws are treated, processed and rolled stiff by use of several chemicals and often require ink to create patterns or designs. Maybe this process is healthier for the environment, but it is definitely not healthier for human bodies.
Even more, paper straws are very inconvenient to sip through. After the straw has been submerged in liquid for more than five minutes, it will begin to dissolve, making the straw unusable. Many people also have a habit of chewing on their straws; for some, this habit is the reason they use straws in the first place. But, one bite on the end of this paper tube, and it will be sealed forever. If, by some miracle, a customer manages to drink quickly and avoid munching on the straw, he or she will still be unsatisfied while sipping their drink because of the paper flavor. As the straw deteriorates, all of those chemicals mix into the drink, making it taste as though one may have licked last night’s English assignment.
Those in favor of using paper straws might argue that they are a more environmentally friendly option than plastic straws, but in fact, this is not the case. Although using less plastic equates to killing less animals, using more paper results in killing more trees. Since saving animals is still the top priority, one might argue that paper is the only alternative option. There are better solutions to this issue that satisfies both environmentalists and consumers alike.
One option is for consumers to buy personal straws that they can carry around, but the options available are not ideal. Metal and glass straws are often dishwasher safe, but they heat and cool with their drinks, can chip teeth and, specifically glass straws, break easily. Silicon straws satisfy that chewing habit and can be disposed of without harming the environment, but they can make consumers feel infantile. Also, every single one of these straws requires special cleaning, and consumers must carry these cleaning products in order to use them.
The best option for consumer use is a straw that is environmentally friendly and still disposable: the hay straw. Hay straws are made from natural wheat stems, biodegrade in compost and are chemical free, as the hay is cleaned by repeatedly soaking and rinsing in sterilized water. Plus, hay straws, work well in extreme temperatures, are extremely cost effective and never become soggy. Hay straws are biodegradable, non-disintegratable and throw-away-able. Say “goodbye” to the past of plastic and paper and say “hay” to the future.