Pictures of plastic waste on the world's coasts and beaches are now an integral part of the media and social networks. Thousands and thousands of straws also lie among these mountains of trash. Experts even assume that by 2050 plastic could exceed the percentage of fish in the sea. For some years now, the EU has no longer stood idly by: since July 2021, single-use plastic products have been banned for which good alternatives already exist.
Whether it's a restaurant, a home party or a wedding, there are already numerous drinking straw alternatives that you can use to sip cocktails and the like in a sustainable way. We present the most important ones here.
Our free sample pack of drinking straws is the perfect choice to test our thoughtfully sustainable straws.
Why are plastic straws so bad for the environment?
Let's start at the beginning: Straws in themselves were used thousands of years ago. The first straws were made of dried rye and were used as tubes to hold drinks. The first "real" paper drinking tube was invented in 1888 by Marvin Stone, who wrapped a strip of paper glued together around a pen. It would take until the second half of the 20th century before plastic straws were mass produced. They were much sturdier and cheaper than their paper predecessors.
Plastic straws are made of plastic, polyethylene or polypropylene. Shape, color and length can vary and there is no risk of breakage with the classic straws either. In Mallorca's bar scene, for example, it is not uncommon to see straws that are three times as long as average drinking tubes. This means that these so-called "XXL Majorca Party Straws" use a lot more plastic. Unfortunately, the waste is then also not properly separated and can therefore not be properly processed or recycled. If you are not quite sure whether the receipt belongs in the residual waste and the coffee filters really in the organic waste, then take a look at our overview of the correct waste separation.
But even in Germany, straws end up in our drinks in excess every day. Around 40 billion straws are used in Germany every year. Who hasn't had two drinking tubes in their drink without a comprehensible intended use? If the straws can't be recycled and litter oceans, animals like turtles can choke on them or mistake them for food. It takes about 500 years for the plastic to decompose, and even then there are still millions of pieces of microplastic floating in our oceans. So it's high time to think about alternatives.
For this reason, we would like to show you a selection of different plastic-free and sustainable drinking straws with their advantages and disadvantages in this article.
1. paper straw - advantages & disadvantages
The alternative that exists in most designs and color patterns on the market so far is undoubtedly the variant made of paper. Suitable for theme parties, children's birthday parties and girls' night out, straws can be found in all colors and patterns. Thereby the drinking tubes are not only made of paper, but get their stability by a thin wax layer. Nevertheless, they can soften after some time in the drink and lose their shape. Therefore, making your own straws out of paper is not a good idea.
When buying straws, it is important to pay attention to how they are produced. Like plastic straws, they are also disposable and must be disposed of after each use. If they are produced from wood raw materials, they protect the environment when they are disposed of, but they entail a high demand for wood and therefore the clearing of trees. Due to their nature, the drinking experience of paper straws is also not the same as plastic straws. Paper straws are therefore an acceptable alternative, which is not automatically environmentally friendly, however, and depending on the model can also quickly go into the money.
Advantages of paper straws
- various designs and colors available
- low purchase costs (approx. 0.02€-0.25€ per straw)
Disadvantages of paper straws
- not environmentally friendly when made from wood raw materials
- can soften after some time in the glass
- depending on price comparatively expensive for single use
2. #IAMPLASTICFREE drinking straw 2.0 - advantages & disadvantages
So there is no alternative with all the positive features of the classic straw and sustainable at the same time? Yes there is - and it really is completely plastic-free. As with bamboo drinking straws, we rely on wood as a sustainable raw material for our #IAMPLASTICFREE drinking straws 2.0 and add sugar and glucose to create a robust drinking straw that doesn't soften and can even be put in the dishwasher a few times. When they are ready to be disposed of, they can simply go into the home compost, where they will decompose in a few weeks, or into the residual waste. Either way, they leave no microplastics behind.
With the white imprint on the black drinking straws, guests immediately notice that these straws are different. So they immediately understand that the business is committed to sustainability and can share their experience on social media in conjunction with the hashtag #IAMPLASTICFREE. In doing so, you're making a sustainable statement around the world in two senses.
Advantages of #IAMPLASTICFREE drinking straws 2.0
- Rather low initial cost (0.08-0.10€ per drinking straw)
- Do not soften (even in hot drinks)
- Reusable several times
- Biodegradable & compostable
- Easy changeover for caterers* and guests
- Production in Germany → Short delivery routes
- Clear statement for plastic-free gastronomy
Disadvantages of #IAMPLASTICFREE drinking straws 2.0
- No bend
- Only one color
The Straws 2.0 are our most effective sustainable alternative to classic petroleum-based plasticstraws. Heat resistance and reusable.
3. #IAMPLASTICFREE drinking straw Wood - advantages & disadvantages
A Sustainable drinking straw made of pine wood and natural glue - nothing more, nothing less. Like drinking straws made of bamboo or paper, the #IAMPLASTICFREE drinking straws " Wood" rely on wood. In an innovative production process, pine wood from sustainable forestry is cut wafer-thin and shaped into a drinking straw. Unlike paper drinking straws, they can withstand hot drinks and do not soften even after hours in the beverage. Despite being natural, the drinking straws have no splinters.
With their natural look, pine straws fit into any beach bar or inn with a natural flair.
These wrapped pinewood straws are our natural disposable alternative to plastic or paper straws.
Advantages of #IAMPLASTICFREE drinking straw Wood
- Low initial cost (0.07€ per drinking straw)
- Will not soften (even in hot beverages)
- Biodegradable & compostable
- Robust & unbreakable
Disadvantages of #IAMPLASTICFREE Drinking Straw Wood
- Slightly woody aftertaste with plain water
- Can hardly be used more than once
4. glass straw - advantages & disadvantages
Glass straws not only look chic, but also impress with their reusability. In addition, glass is tasteless, so nothing stands in the way of carefree drinking pleasure - if it weren't for the cleaning.
The problem: Most dishwashers cannot clean glass drinking straws completely. Therefore, an adapted brush is often included, with which the straws have to be cleaned by hand. This takes up more time, for which there is seldom room in everyday catering operations. And even if really good glass straws are made of an extremely sturdy special glass, the straws can of course break or at least splinter if they fall out of your hand, for example.
The glass drinking straw is a nice alternative that is increasingly being used, especially in higher-priced restaurants and in your own kitchen, for example for smoothies. In addition, it is plastic-free and thus helps in the transition to a plastic-free gastronomy. Nevertheless, a decisive problem arises precisely from the properties of the glass straw: true to the motto "One bar, one drink, one gift", the one or other guest also likes to let the stylish straws wander into his own pocket. This is doubly annoying, especially because of the higher purchase costs.
Advantages of glass straws
- Chic & high quality in handling
Disadvantages of glass straws
- High purchase costs
- Difficult to clean
- Not 100% unbreakable
- Are stolen with pleasure
5. stainless steel straw - advantages & disadvantages
For those who find the risk of breakage too high with glass straws, stainless steel or metal straws are a good choice, as they impress with their unique stability. Otherwise, the basic advantages and disadvantages are very similar to those of glass straws: they make a high-quality impression on the guest, so they are also something for the eye, and for the most part they are tasteless.
At the same time, however, it is also true here that cleaning in the dishwasher is usually not sufficient, even if stainless steel straws are dishwasher-safe. Additional cleaning by means of a special brush is therefore necessary and thus naturally ensures greater effort behind the bar. Another disadvantage is that, unlike a glass straw, which can be checked for cleanliness with the naked eye, a metal straw cannot simply be peered through. Guests must therefore rely on appropriate hygiene on the part of the catering trade.
Many bar visitors are therefore reluctant to use these straws. And last but not least, the problem with metal or stainless steel straws is that they tend to be pocketed and taken away by guests - at comparatively high purchase costs.
Advantages of stainless steel straws
- Chic & high quality in handling
Disadvantages of stainless steel straws
- high purchase costs (0,70€ - 3€ per stainless steel straw)
- difficult to clean
- difficult to check for cleanliness
- like to be stolen
6. bamboo straw - advantages & disadvantages
Cocktails always exude a kind of vacation feeling - with tropical fruits, paper umbrellas, ice cubes and other decorative elements. Of course, the bamboo straw fits perfectly into the picture, who doesn't get transported from balcony to beach paradise by the thought of half a coconut with fruit skewer and bamboo tubes?
The stalks, which are made of bamboo wood mostly in Asian countries, are not only something for the eye, but also make sense from an ecological point of view - if they are demonstrably produced under fair conditions. If this is the case and the straws contain no plastic, no pesticides, ideally come from natural, renewable cultivation and are also produced locally, then the bamboo straw is a nice alternative to the plastic straw.
Unfortunately, the bamboo straw also proves not to be a practical solution for the catering industry. Again, the time-consuming cleaning is one of the main reasons here. Again, owners have the choice between rinsing with the extra cleaning brush and washing in the dishwasher, although this significantly limits the longevity. The straws are also not tasteless and can also be stolen quickly times unnoticed.
Advantages of bamboo straws
Disadvantages of bamboo straws
- high purchase costs (approx. 0,70€ - 1,70€ per bamboo straw with brush)
- when cleaned in the dishwasher and used for a longer time at a stretch, the life span decreases considerably
- can be stolen
- not tasteless
- can become discolored
7. straw - advantages & disadvantages
Back to basics we go with straws made from dried grain. Following the model of the past, there are also manufacturers today who produce the tubes from straw. The solution is as simple as it is straightforward: the remains of the harvest are used, the appropriate parts of the stalk are sorted out and then processed with hot water and steam. The straws are mostly produced by farmers directly in Germany, which means that they are also at the forefront of the eco-balance. However, drinking straws made of straw can also be produced yourself if desired: After the harvest, you can collect the straws, cut out a piece between two growth nodes and then clean and dry them.
Straws made from grain are also very climate-friendly, as only natural resources are used in their manufacture, which are, after all, the waste products of an ecological process. At the same time, the straws have a significant disadvantage: they can fray in the glass and thus lose stability and aesthetics after some time. In addition, some models allow only limited liquid intake, which significantly affects the drinking pleasure and thus makes them unsuitable for thicker drinks such as smoothies and shakes.
Advantages of straws
- do not soften
- low initial cost (0.01€ - 0.20€ per straw)
- very stable
Disadvantages of straws
- depending on the model, limited liquid intake possible
- can fray in the drink
8. noodle straw - advantages & disadvantages
Who as a child has not tried to play the flute on a macaroni or blow at someone through it? After all, the popular XL pasta is hollow on the inside. It is precisely this property that is exploited in pasta straws. The straws are made, who would have thought it, from the popular pasta. There are also manufacturers who produce special drinking straws from noodles in the appropriate length, but macaroni from the supermarket can also be used as a straw.
For the ideal drinking pleasure, a little intuition is required here: Broken into shape, the straws can be adapted to the height of the glass and therefore represent an inexpensive and also sustainable alternative. However, anyone who has accidentally left pasta in cold pasta water knows that it softens after a short time. Unfortunately, this is no different with drinking tubes made of pasta. After a short time, the part in the drink loses stability, so the duration of use is limited. If you want, you can of course nibble the pasta straws after drinking, but they are not necessarily still edible after a few minutes in the cool drink. So while pasta straws are a sustainable alternative, they are not a very practical one. Especially with regard to the regular use of drinking straws, you should ask yourself if you really want to waste the food for this purpose.
Advantages of pasta straws
- low purchase costs (approx. 0.03€ - 0.10€ per straw)
Disadvantages of pasta straws
- not unbreakable, can break when bitten
- soften after a short time, are then no longer neutral in taste
- waste of food
9. apple straw - advantages & disadvantages
No question, in the summer, cool juices and spritzers and now and then a light cocktail simply belong. Enjoyed relaxed on your own terrace or with friends in a café, they invite you to chilled afternoons or evenings - freshness kick included. How practical would be a straw, which underlines the tangy character of the favorite drink! Here, too, there is a suitable alternative to the plastic straw: comparatively new on the market are straws made from apple pomace, the remains of apple juice production.
Some other natural substances such as grain are added to these for stability. The straws are edible after use or can be composted. At first, the alternative tastes like apple-flavored fruit gum, but after a while it takes on the flavor of the beverage. With the sweet-fruity kick, this variant is a sustainable alternative to plastic straws, especially for children, or is also ideal for parties. Need tips on how to celebrate the right way and be sustainable at the same time? Then our 4ideas for plastic-free parties are certainly something for you.
For the catering trade, it is only suitable to a limited extent because of the dominant note - after all, not every guest is into the artificial apple flavor. Another disadvantage is also here the stability, which decreases after a short time in the drink. Apple straws are thus a sustainable alternative, but remain a matter of taste in the truest sense of the word and therefore cannot be rated as a convincing alternative.
Advantages of apple straws
- low purchase costs (approx. 0.05€ - 0.20€ per straw)
- edible after use
- are compostable
Disadvantages of apple straws
- not neutral in taste
- lose stability after a short time
10. silicone straw - advantages & disadvantages
Silicone straws are another alternative. In German kitchens today, you can already find some practical helpers made of the flexible material. Especially for cakes and baking pans, people fall back on it. Like the paper alternative, silicone straws come in a variety of colors and designs. The straws can be purchased not only in your favorite color, but also as a replacement in the design of a bamboo tube, for example.
Unfortunately, however, there is another price to pay for the miracle straws: drinking tubes made of the elastic material are suspected of containing the plasticizer BPA, which gives the tubes their incomparable flexibility. BPA has been proven to affect the hormonal balance of humans and can be a real danger for both children and adults. With this, special attention should therefore be paid to the ingredients in private use, especially if you want to use them for children.
In addition, the straws are real dust catchers due to their static charge and can no longer be cleaned properly after a short period of use. Cleaning can be done with special brushes or in the dishwasher, but it is still difficult to clean them sufficiently hygienically. This makes them impractical for use in the catering industry.
Advantages of silicone straws
- various colors and designs available
- moderate purchase costs (approx. 0.50€ - 2€ with brush)
Disadvantages of silicone straws
- difficult to clean, wear out quickly in the dishwasher, not very hygienic
- difficult to recycle
- can get dusty
- suspected of containing BPA
- material unstable
- slight off-taste
- can be stolen
11. PLA drinking straw - advantages & disadvantages
So an alternative would have to be found that has the same positive properties as disposable plastic straws, but is not made of plastic. One solution seems to be straws made of polylactides, or PLA for short. PLA is a bioplastic that is made from renewable raw materials and is also compostable. Especially the starch of the corn plant is used for the production of the plastic. For the cultivation of corn, soils are used which are not suitable for the cultivation of food corn. Another advantage of the bioplastic is the low amount of carbon dioxide produced during cultivation. Likewise, even when burned, only the CO2 of the growth phase is emitted by the plant. In addition, after recycling, the plastic can not only have the same properties as in the new state, but also the cultivation of new plants is omitted - PLA straws are therefore a sustainable alternative, which in its properties undoubtedly comes close to those of the classic drinking straws.
The problem with the bioplastic, however, is that the plants used are mostly grown in China. This entails a long transport route, which in turn has a significant impact on the eco-balance. In addition, it is difficult to determine whether the biogenic waste materials could really not be used as food and are not planted specifically for the manufacture of products. If PLA straws are used in the catering industry, for example, it is difficult to distinguish them from classic plastic straws. So you quickly run the risk that the guest does not notice the environmentally friendly idea at all and therefore perhaps even evaluates the business more negatively out of ignorance.
Advantages of PLA straws
- low purchase costs
- identical properties as plastic straws > therefore easy to change, both for customers and restaurateurs
- biodegradable & compostable
- do not soften
Disadvantages of PLA drinking straws
- difficult to recognize, because easy to confuse with plastic straws, if not printed on straw
- Differences in quality regarding starch content with Asian manufacturers
So there are many alternatives for plastic drinking straws - now it's just a matter of finding the right one for you. You should consider how often you will use the straws and whether the purchase costs for some models are really worth it. After all, tasty drinks are part of a good meal, an aperitif or just a short break in between. They are therefore the perfect opportunity to make a simple commitment to sustainable gastronomy.
Our comparison has shown: With straws made from biogenic waste materials, you come close to properties of classic drinking tubes and avoid plastic faster than you have even pronounced the word "straw". With the hashtag on our straws, you can communicate your use in a contemporary and clear way with your guests and let it spread easily.
The #IAMPLASTICFREE drinking straws 2.0 and Wood are our clear favorites for sustainable hospitality and events. Pro tip: Combining both straws for different cocktails (e.g. Wood for non-alcoholic and 2.0 for alcoholic) will help your staff and guests tell their cocktails apart.