Making the switch from a plastic to a bamboo drinking straw is super simple and full of benefits. It’s one of the easiest steps you can take towards helping solve the plastic waste problem on our planet.
1. Reusable and Long Lasting
One of the top benefits of using bamboo drinking straws is that you can reuse them over and over. When properly cleaned and cared for, a bamboo drinking straw can last several years. I bought my first set a little over two years ago and they have shown no signs of wear and I use them daily.
In order to ensure the longevity of your bamboo straws, after hand washing, make sure to let them fully dry by laying them flat (not vertical) to prevent any water buildup at the bottom of the straw and always store them in a well-ventilated area. Avoid airtight containers or jars as this will cause potential moisture buildup inside the straws.
I also recommend polishing the outside of the straw with coconut oil about every 10 uses. You can also soak your straws in hot water and vinegar for a few minutes once a month to keep them in top condition.
The amount you will spend on a pack of bamboo drinking straws will be a fraction of what you would spend on a lifetime of using plastic straws. Most bamboo drinking straws come in packs of 10-20 pieces in various sizes and will cost approximately $7-20 depending on the brand. Many popular online retailers will also have offers for buying in bulk.
Money aside, consider the real environmental cost of using plastic drinking straws. It’s estimated that in the United States we use nearly 500 million disposable plastic straws a day – that’s enough to wrap the circumference of the earth 2.5 times around! And that’s just in the USA, this number is even higher when you add in the global population. This massive cost can be prevented by switching over to a bamboo straw.
3. Healthy and Chemical-Free
Plastic straws are made from the petroleum-derived chemical, polypropylene. The FDA determines this material is safe for food contact, but research evidence has shown that it can leak chemicals into liquids and potentially disrupt hormone levels – in particular, estrogen, which is the last thing I need changing in my body!
With hot beverages, the plastic can become heated and these toxic chemicals can leak out of your straw and contaminate your drink. Even small amounts of high acidity and UV light can break down these harmful compounds and infuse them into your drink. No thank you!
BPA (bisphenol A) can also be found in hard plastics and at higher levels has been linked to health problems. Most plastics generally contain fancy chemical additives, that can build up in the body and potentially become carcinogenic over time. Phthalates may also impair immune function and promote early onset puberty, obesity, diabetes and hyperactivity. As a parent, these are all things I want to protect my children from.
The goods news is that bamboo fibers have natural antimicrobial properties meaning they are less likely to harbor bacteria over time and be more resistant to spoiling or rotting over time. Bamboo is also grown chemical-free, not requiring the need for chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
4. Stylish and Fun
Bamboo is eye-catching and stylish. A quick photo of a bamboo drinking straw in any beverage will be Instagram worthy. Kids love the novelty of a fun looking straw and will be encouraged to finish their healthy juice or smoothie. It also serves as a great opportunity to educate your children or guests about the dangers of plastic waste due to single-use plastic drinking straws.
I love using them for parties or when I have guests over. They are a great accent when making a refreshing summer drink or warm winter treat. Most brands have lengths that are around eight inches which is more than long enough to fit in a typical 12-16oz (30-40cl) glass or cup.
Many bamboo drinking straws come finished and treated with a polish. This gives the straws no sharp edges or lower risks of breakage. They are child-friendly with smooth edges that won’t cause any irritation when using. Bamboo drinking straws can be used for both hot or cold beverages.
Bamboo is also used in buildings and bridges in some parts of the world. As a material, bamboo has a higher specific compressive strength (ability to withstand heavy loads) than wood, brick or concrete, and a specific tensile strength (how hard it is to pull a material apart) that is close to steel. This makes bamboo one of the strongest eco-friendly materials on earth.
Now don’t go dropping steel beams and concrete bricks on your straws, but expect your bamboo drinking straws to withstand a lot of use!
6. Easy Cleanup
Many different brands of bamboo drinking straws may come with a handy brush that helps for a thorough cleaning. This consists of a long metal rod with nylon brushes attached at the end.
When I use my wider bamboo drinking straws for smoothies, I like having a brush to clean out any leftover residue inside of the straw. Regardless of the diameter, I highly recommend choosing a pack that offers a cleaning brush as it will ensure the life of your straws and keep them sanitary, especially when using them with smoothies, fresh juices, or milkshakes.
If your bamboo drinking straws are treated and finished with polish, they are safe to wash at high temperatures in the dishwasher. Otherwise, a simple hand washing with lukewarm soapy water will do the trick. You can also shake the straws in a jar full of warm soapy water for cleaning many at once. Your straws should be laid out and air dried before using again to prevent any moisture from building up inside.
7. Portable On-The-Go
Super-lightweight (less than 1oz), bamboo drinking straws don’t take up much space. You can simply toss your straw in your bag and take it with you on-the-go. The first set of straws I purchased also came with a small and convenient carrying pouch that fits easily inside my purse or tucks away in the kitchen drawer.
When I stop at my local coffee shop for an iced coffee, I will always opt to use my bamboo drinking straw with my travel coffee cup instead of the single-use plastic straws that are available.
Side note: if you plan to take your straw on the go with a travel coffee cup, make sure the diameter will fit inside the lid!
8. An Eco-Friendly and Renewable Resource
Bamboo is a super plant! Famously known as one of the world’s most renewable materials, it is the fastest growing plant in the world being able to grow up to three feet a day. Bamboo requires no pesticides, and little water- especially compared to other crops such as cotton.
When bamboo is harvested, the plant easily regenerates itself. Bamboo does its job for the environment by offering 35% more oxygen than trees and actually helps absorb CO2 from the atmosphere.
Bamboo drinking straws are made from 100% all-natural bamboo and carry all of the eco-friendly properties of the plant in its original form.
9. Eliminates Plastic Waste
Think about every “to-go” drink such as soda, iced coffee, smoothie, juice, or cocktail which uses at least one straw and sometimes even comes wrapped individually in extra plastic or paper.
This single-use plastic product is filling up our landfills at an enormous rate, with 175 billion going into our landfills each year. And that is just the plastic straws that make it to our landfills, with other straws getting swept away into the ocean. When plastic straws make it into the ocean marine life can accidentally ingest them causing a 50 percent mortality rate in seabirds and turtles.
Any straws that are not ingested break down into smaller and smaller pieces known as “microplastics” rather than naturally biodegrading, which clog up waterways and threaten ecosystems of fish.
It’s estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic waste in the ocean than fish! When thinking about my children’s future, these thoughts are frightening. Bamboo drinking straws are a safe and natural alternative that won’t endanger marine life or pollute the environment. It is a simple step you can take towards solving the problem of plastic waste on our planet.
Bamboo is a biodegradable material, which comes from the earth and goes back to the earth, decomposing within 4-6 months. On the contrary, plastic drinking straws will take up to 200 years to fully decompose!
When your straws show natural signs of wear and tear such as splitting or fraying at the end, it’s time to dispose of them. Rather than throwing them in the garbage, you can simply compost them in soil allowing them to decompose and return to the earth. I suggest breaking them in half or using plant trimmers if you want to spread out smaller pieces in your compost garden.
Other Alternatives to Single-Use Plastic Drinking Straws
I don’t suggest that you stop using drinking straws all together!
If you or someone has a disability or a medical condition, there are times where it’s completely appropriate to use a drinking straw in order to drink independently.
Here are some alternatives to bamboo drinking straws that can be ocean and environmentally friendly:
• Go strawless – if you think you can live without a drinking straw, give it a shot and go strawless! I’ve learned to simply say “no straw, please” when at a restaurant or bar. Some environmentally-conscious establishments have started to offer drinking straws only upon request.
• Glass straws – they look beautiful in a glass cup or mason jar and are reusable, BPA-free, and hypoallergenic. The downside: they can be slightly costly at $8-10 or more for a single straw and may be more fragile and prone to breaking than other drinking straws.
• Stainless steel straws – are ultra-reusable and dishwasher safe, making them a great alternative to plastic. Again slightly on the more expensive side but this is another great alternative to single-use plastic.
• Compostable paper straws – they are biodegradable and decompose in just 45-90 days. Unfortunately, they aren’t reusable but when composted correctly, they can reduce your potential for plastic waste.
Certain cities and states have recently announced policies to phase or restrict business from selling single-use plastic straws. While some smaller businesses are identifying as “straw-free”. Many mega-chain corporations such as Starbucks, Ikea, and Hilton Hotels have announced policies reducing or eliminating single-use drinking straws. If you are a business owner, I encourage you to seek out other alternatives to single-use plastic straws.
Whether you are a proponent of using bamboo drinking straws or another material, it’s important to be conscious of the waste that we are producing as a society. In the case of plastic drinking straws, this can easily be prevented. Reusable drinking straws are readily available on most online retailers and are a simple step towards a solution in solving the planet’s plastic waste problem.
Are plastic straws recyclable? Plastic straws are too lightweight to make it through a mechanical recycling sorter. They drop through sorting screens and mix with other materials and are too small to separate, contaminating recycling loads or getting disposed of as garbage.
What about plastic compostable drinking straws? Compostable straws are great but they can be disposed of incorrectly as there is a lack of information on public composting depositories. Compostable plastic straws are designed to break down in compost facility conditions, not sea water.