As of July 2018, Starbucks became the largest food and beverage retailer to eliminate single-use plastic straws from all of its stores. In an effort to slash one billion plastic straws’ worth of waste annually, the coffee giant pledged to replace their signature green straws with strawless lids (used for iced and espresso beverages) and a more sustainable straw option.
While Sbux is finally delivering on practices as green as its logo, it’s not the only brand making bold, eco-friendly moves. McDonald’s U.S. division plans to test plastic straw alternatives later this year and use paper straws in U.K. markets by 2019. Other institutions such as Royal Caribbean and SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment are also eschewing the accessory.
So why are all these companies making the switch—and should you? We gathered three solid reasons why you should shy away from using plastic straws and opt for a more sustainable alternative.
Straws Contribute to Pollution
An astounding 500 million straws are used in the U.S. every day, and according to a New Plastics Economy report, oceans are expected to contain more plastic than fish by 2050. Since single-use straws are often littered, they make their way into our oceans and endanger precious wildlife. In fact, it’s estimated that more than one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die annually due to plastic pollution.
Microplastic (plastics that degrade and fragment over time) also pose a serious threat: A study in PLoS One says that “many more organisms ingest small plastic particles than previously thought, either directly or indirectly, i.e. via their prey organism,” and since microplastics are so small, clean-up is virtually impossible because they can’t be caught in nets.
Straws Aren’t as Great For Oral Health as You Think
In theory, sipping through a straw can prevent stains and cavities, but in practice? Not so much. An Academy of General Dentistry study states that using a straw with sweetened beverages can prevent cavities by limiting contact between the beverage and teeth. But this will only work if the straw is positioned toward the back of your mouth. Most of us don’t sip this way, and if you ask us, this method actually defeats the purpose of using a straw. The study points out that using a straw targets your back teeth, which are then exposed to your drink’s enamel-eroding sugar as well as acids found in healthy picks such as sparkling water and kombucha.
Straws Cause a Puffy Belly
We already know that unhealthy eats can contribute to a paunchy gut, but did you know that even sipping water from a straw can, too? “The use of straws can be particularly bad for your health if you suffer from gas and/or bloating,” Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDE, CDN tells us. “The act of sucking in through a straw can promote air pockets that move quickly through the gastrointestinal system. You may also want to avoid a straw if you are trying to slow down your liquid intake. Sucking through a straw may also increase the amount of liquid consumed at one time—and this is particularly important when you’re trying to control portions of liquids which may have more calories, such as with smoothies or juices.”
While sipping through a straw isn’t eco- or gut-friendly, young children and people with certain disabilities require a straw to drink. That’s where sustainably created straws come in. Below, we’ve rounded up our favorite brands that make environmentally-friendly straws:
Koffie Straws are crafted out of silicone, which can tolerate both extreme cold and heat. Each pack comes with two straws (and a cleaning brush) so you can choose between different sizes to fit your Venti days or your Tall vanilla latte order. They also come in funky colors such as sugar plum, hot pink, and mocha.
$12.50 on Amazon
Greens Steel Straws
Greens Steel features both wide and curved reusable straws that are both rust-proof and BPA-free for all of your hydrating needs. Pop two in your purse for those midday coffee runs and leave two at home to use with your own glassware.
$9.99 on Amazon
Bambu Bamboo Straws
For a biodegradable alternative, Bambu’s certified-organic, bamboo straws are a great alternative to the plastic stuff. Dunk them into our best smoothies for weight loss for a truly guilt-free sip.
$11.99 on Amazon