The ban on single-use plastic straws in Canada has become one of the most hotly debated environmental issues for the food service industry.
We are strong advocates for saying no to plastic by providing biodegradable and reusable straws. However, before we can change consumer behaviour, it’s important for people to understand the difference between common straw products and associated environmental impacts.
Plastic straws have a short life-span as they are designed as a single-use product which we use to consume drinks before carelessly throwing them away.
It is a well-known fact that a single plastic straw can take up to 200 years to decompose. Even so, the negative environmental impact of plastic straws may come as a surprise given how small and thin the average straw is. Millions of straws end up in the ocean, where fish and marine mammals can ingest the plastic. Studies show that an estimated 71 per cent of seabirds and 30 per cent of turtles have plastic in their stomachs.
Plastic straws are made out of petroleum bi-product polypropylene, which is similar to the fuels we put into our cars. When straws begin to breakdown, they release harmful toxins that pollute the environment. When exposed to hot water or steam, plastic straws can easily melt and leak toxins.
To do your part to stop to the use of plastic straws is easy; don’t buy them in supermarkets and when ordering a drink, ask for a non-plastic straw.
PLA stands for polylactic acid which is made from renewable resources, such as sugarcane or corn starch. Naturally, one would assume that since PLA Straws are derived from natural ingredients that it would be better for the environment. However, this is not always the case and can often be misleading.
The issue with PLA straws is that people think they are buying an environmentally-friendly product. Although PLA is biodegradable, PLA straws and other PLA products become another form of plastic that will take years to breakdown in landfills and the ocean. PLA straws need to be composted under specific conditions, and they are not accepted by most municipal composting programs in Canada, even most commercial programs do not yet have common facilities to compost PLA based products, forcing them to end up in landfills.
It is a common misconception that biodegradable PLA products are great alternatives to general plastic, however it is only great in theory as they still have a negative impact on the environment.
Paper straws are by far the most environmentally-friendly option. Paper straws breakdown quickly (they start to breakdown within three days if they end up in our oceans), and are compostable.
It is important however to research the brand or manufacturer before purchasing a paper straw product and check customer reviews.
There is a bit of controversy around paper straws as some brands use harmful chemicals when manufacturing the straw with inferior paper quality in order to overcome common complaints such as paper straws getting soggy too quickly or the colour of paper straws leaching into drinks. Paper straws are also slightly more expensive than the more commonly-used plastic straw, which are usually priced around $12.99 per bag in the supermarket.
However, if you buy better brands, such as BUYERSbasics, you will find that there was no need for plastic straws in the first place.
The Buyers Club only sells food-grade paper straws which are a suitable alternative to plastic because they quickly decompose and are user-friendly. BUYERSbasics paper straws are 100 per cent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Union (EU) approved, compostable with the ability to decompose in 30-60 days. They do not contain bees wax, are biodegradable and will not fall apart in your hot or chilled drink. There is even a bendable paper straw option, which is great for hospital patients, people with physical disabilities and children.
While paper straws may cost a little more, the feel-good emotion you and your customers get from a refreshing drink will only get better when you know your straw won’t have a negative impact on the environment.