Images of plastic waste on coasts and beaches around the world are now an integral part of media and social networks. There are also thousands and thousands of straws lying between these mountains of rubbish. Experts even assume that by 2050 plastic could outnumber the fish in the sea. The EU has not stood idly by for several years: single-use plastic products, for which there are already good alternatives, have been banned since July 2021.
It doesn't matter whether it's gastronomy, a home party or a wedding: there are already numerous drinking straw alternatives with which you can easily sip cocktails & Co sustainably. We present the most important ones here.
Why are plastic straws so bad for the environment?
Let's start at the beginning: Straws 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 straw was invented by Marvin Stone in 1888, who wrapped a taped strip of paper around a pen. It would not be until the second half of the 20th century that plastic straws were mass-produced. They were much more stable 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. In Mallorca's pub scene, for example, it is not uncommon to see straws that are three times as long as the average drinking straw. With these so-called "XXL Mallorca Party Straws" there is a significantly increased consumption of plastic. Unfortunately, the waste is then not properly separated and therefore cannot be properly processed or recycled. If you are not quite sure whether the receipt should go in the residual waste and the coffee filters in the organic waste, then please take a look at ours Overview of correct waste separation .
But also in Germany, too many straws end up in our drinks every day. We use around 40 billion straws a year. Who hasn't had two drinking straws in their drink without a clear intention to use them? If the straws cannot be recycled and litter the 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 millions of pieces are still floating microplastics in our seas. 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. Glass straw - advantages & disadvantages
Glass straws not only look chic, but also convince 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 completely clean glass drinking straws. Therefore, an adapted brush is often included, with which the straws have to be cleaned by hand. This entails an increased expenditure of time, for which there is rarely room in everyday gastronomy. And even if really good glass straws are made of an extremely stable special glass, the straws can of course break or at least splinter if they fall out of your hand.
The glass drinking straw is a nice alternative that is increasingly used in higher-priced restaurants and in your own kitchen, for example for smoothies. In addition, it is plastic-free and thus helps with the change to a plastic-free gastronomy . Nevertheless, a crucial problem arises precisely from the properties of the glass straw: True to the motto "One bar, one drink, one gift", one or the other guest likes to let the stylish straws wander into their own pockets. This is doubly annoying, especially given the higher acquisition costs.
Benefits of Glass Straws
- Chic & high-quality in handling
Disadvantages of glass straws
- High acquisition costs
- Difficult to clean
- Not 100% shatterproof
- Willingly stolen
2. Stainless steel straw - advantages & disadvantages
If the risk of breaking glass straws is too high, you are well advised to use straws made of stainless steel or metal, 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 tasteless.
At the same time, cleaning in the dishwasher is usually not enough, even if stainless steel straws are dishwasher-safe. An additional cleaning with a special brush is therefore necessary and of course causes more effort behind the bar. Additional disadvantage: In contrast to a glass straw, where you can check the cleanliness with the naked eye, you cannot simply look through a metal straw. Guests must therefore rely on appropriate hygiene on the part of the gastronomy.
Many bar visitors are therefore reluctant to use these straws. And last but not least, there is also the problem with the metal or stainless steel straw that guests like to plug it in and take it with them - with comparatively high acquisition costs.
Advantages of stainless steel straws
- Chic & high-quality in the handle
Disadvantages of stainless steel straws
- high acquisition costs (0.70€ - 3€ per stainless steel straw)
- difficult to clean
- Difficult to check cleanliness
- are gladly stolen
3. Bamboo Straw - Advantages & Disadvantages
Cocktails always radiate a kind of holiday feeling - with tropical fruits, paper umbrellas, ice cubes and other decorative elements. Of course, the bamboo drinking straw fits perfectly into the picture, who doesn't get transported from balconies to beach paradise at the thought of half a coconut with a fruit skewer and bamboo tubes?
The straws, which are mostly made of bamboo wood in Asian countries, are not only pleasing to the eye, but also make sense from an ecological point of view - if they were 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 does not prove to be a practical solution for the catering industry either. Again, the time-consuming cleaning is one of the main reasons. Again, as the owner, you have the choice between rinsing with the extra cleaning brush and washing in the dishwasher, whereby the longevity is considerably reduced as a result. The straws are also not tasteless and can also be stolen quickly and unnoticed.
Benefits of Bamboo Straws
Disadvantages of bamboo straws
- high acquisition costs (approx. €0.70 - €1.70 per bamboo stem with brush)
- if cleaned in the dishwasher and used for longer periods of time, the service life decreases considerably
- can be stolen
- not tasteless
- may discolour
4. Straw - Advantages & Disadvantages
Going back to basics with straws made from dried grain. According to the model of the past, there are still manufacturers today who make the tubes out of straw. The solution is as simple as it is simple: the remains of the harvest are used, the appropriate parts of the stalk are sorted out and then treated with hot water and steam. The production is mostly done by farmers directly in Germany, which means that the straws are also at the forefront of the ecological balance. If you wish, you can also make your own drinking straws from straw: After harvesting, you can collect the straws, cut out a piece between two growth knots and then clean and dry them.
Straws made from grain are also very climate-friendly, since only natural resources are used in their production, which are the waste products of an ecological process. The straws have a decisive disadvantage: They can fray in the glass and lose stability and aesthetics after a while. In addition, some models only allow limited liquid intake, which significantly affects drinking pleasure and makes them unsuitable for thicker drinks such as smoothies and shakes.
Benefits of Straws
- do not soften
- low acquisition costs (0.01€ - 0.20€ per straw)
- very stable
Disadvantages of straws
- limited liquid intake possible depending on the model
- can fray in the drink
5. Paper Straw - Pros & Cons
The alternative, which has existed in most designs and color patterns on the market so far, is undoubtedly the paper variant. Straws in all colors and patterns are suitable for theme parties, children's birthday parties and girls' evenings. The drinking tubes are not only made of paper, but are made stable by a thin layer of wax. However, after a while they can soften in the drink and lose their shape. Making paper straws yourself is therefore not a good idea.
Important when buying: Pay attention to how the straws were produced. Like the plastic straw, they are also disposable and must be disposed of after each use. If they are made from wood raw materials, they protect the environment during disposal, but they require a lot of wood and thus also the clearing of trees. Due to their nature, the drinking experience of paper straws is not the same as that of plastic straws. Paper straws are therefore an acceptable alternative, which, however, is not automatically environmentally friendly and, depending on the model, can quickly cost money.
Advantages of paper straws
- Various designs and colors available
- low acquisition costs (approx. €0.02-0.25 per straw)
Disadvantages of paper straws
- Not environmentally friendly when made from wood raw materials
- can soften in the glass after a while
- depending on the price comparatively expensive for one-time use
6. Pasta Straw - Pros & Cons
As a child, who hasn't tried playing a macaroni flute or blowing on someone? After all, the popular XL pasta is hollow on the inside. Exactly this property is used with pasta drinking straws. The straws are produced, who would have thought it, from the popular pasta. There are also manufacturers who produce special drinking straws made from pasta in an adjusted length, but macaroni from the supermarket can also be used as a straw.
For the ideal drinking pleasure, a bit of finesse is required here: broken in shape, the straws can be adjusted to the height of the glass and therefore represent an inexpensive and also sustainable alternative. But anyone who has accidentally forgotten pasta in cold pasta water also knows that this is the case softens after a short time. Unfortunately, this is no different with the drinking tubes made of pasta. After a short time, the part in the drink loses stability, so the period of use is limited. If you want, you can of course nibble on 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 very practical. Especially with regard to the regular use of drinking straws, one should ask oneself whether one really wants to waste the food for this purpose.
Benefits of noodle straws
- low acquisition costs (approx. €0.03 - €0.10 per straw)
Disadvantages of pasta straws
- not shatterproof, can break when biting
- soften after a short time and are then no longer tasteless
- waste of food
7. Apple Straw - Pros & Cons
No question, in summer cool juices and spritzers and from time to time a light cocktail are simply part of it. Relaxed on your own terrace or with friends in the café, they invite you to chilled afternoons or evenings - including a freshness kick. How practical would it be to have a straw that emphasizes the fizzy character of your favorite drink! Here, too, there is a suitable alternative to plastic straws: Straws made from apple pomace, the leftovers from apple juice production, are relatively new on the market.
Some other natural substances such as grain are added to these for stability. The straws are edible after use or can be composted. The alternative initially tastes like apple-flavored fruit gum, but after a while it takes on the taste of the drink. With the sweet and fruity kick, this variant is a sustainable alternative to plastic straws, especially for children, and is also ideal for celebrations. Do you need tips on how to celebrate properly and be sustainable at the same time? Then ours 4 ideas for a plastic-free party surely something for you.
Due to the dominant note, it is only suitable to a limited extent for gastronomy - after all, not every guest likes the artificial apple taste. Another disadvantage here is the stability, which decreases after a short time in the drink. Apple straws are a sustainable alternative, but they remain a matter of taste in the truest sense of the word and are therefore not to be evaluated as a convincing alternative.
Benefits of Apple Straws
- low acquisition costs (approx. €0.05 - €0.20 per straw)
- edible after use
- are compostable
Disadvantages of apple straws
- not tasteless
- lose stability after a short time
8. Silicone Straw - Pros & Cons
Another alternative are straws made of silicone. In German kitchens there are already some practical helpers made of the flexible material. It is used especially for cake and baking tins. Like the paper alternative, silicone drinking straws come in different colors and designs. The straws can not only be bought in your favorite colour, but also, for example, as a replacement in the design of a bamboo tube.
Unfortunately, you pay another price for the miracle straws: drinking straws made of the elastic material are suspected of containing the plasticizer BPA, which gives the straws their incomparable flexibility. BPA has a proven effect on the human hormone balance and can become a real danger for both children and adults. Therefore, special attention should be paid to the ingredients during private use, especially if you want to use them for children.
In addition, the straws are real dust collectors due to their static charge and can no longer be cleaned properly after a short period of use. Although cleaning can be done with special brushes or in the dishwasher, adequate hygienic cleaning is still difficult. This makes them impractical for use in the hospitality industry.
Advantages of silicone straws
- various colors and designs available
- moderate acquisition costs (approx. €0.50 - €2 with brush)
Disadvantages of silicone straws
- time-consuming cleaning, rapid wear in the dishwasher, not very hygienic
- difficult to recycle
- can gather dust
- suspected of containing BPA
- materials unstable
- slight aftertaste
- can be stolen
9. PLA drinking straw - advantages & disadvantages
So an alternative is needed that has the same positive properties as disposable plastic straws, but is not made of plastic. Straws made of polylactides, PLA for short, seem to be a solution to this. PLA is a bioplastic that is made from renewable raw materials and is compostable at the same time. The starch of the corn plant in particular is used to produce the plastic, using soil that is not suitable for growing food corn. Another advantage of the bioplastic is the low amount of carbon dioxide produced during cultivation. In the same way, only the CO2 of the growth phase is emitted by the plant during combustion. In addition, after recycling, the plastic can not only have the same properties as when it was new, but there is also no need to grow new plants - PLA straws are therefore a sustainable alternative whose properties undoubtedly come close to those of 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 major impact on the ecological balance. In addition, it is difficult to understand whether the biogenic waste could really not be used as food and whether it is not planted specifically for the manufacture of products. If PLA straws are used in gastronomy, for example, it is difficult to distinguish them from classic plastic straws. So you run the risk that the guest doesn't notice the environmentally friendly idea at all and therefore perhaps even evaluates the company more negatively out of ignorance.
Advantages of PLA drinking straws
- low acquisition costs
- identical properties as plastic straws > easy to switch over, both for customers and restaurateurs
- biodegradable & compostable
- do not soften
Disadvantages of PLA drinking straws
- Difficult to recognize because easily confused with plastic straws if not printed on straw
- Differences in quality in terms of starch content among Asian manufacturers
10. #IAMPLASTICFREE Trinhalm Wood - Pros & Cons
A sustainable drinking straw made from pine wood and natural glue - nothing more, nothing less. Like straws made of bamboo or paper, the #IAMPLASTICFREE "Wood" drinking straws are made of wood. In an innovative production process, pine wood from sustainable forestry is cut wafer-thin and shaped into a drinking straw. In contrast to paper drinking straws, they also withstand hot drinks and do not soften even after hours in the drink. Despite the naturalness, the drinking straws have no splinters.
With their natural look, the straws made of pine wood fit into every beach bar and every restaurant with a natural flair.
Advantages of #IAMPLASTICFREE drinking straw Wood
- Low acquisition costs (0.07€ per straw)
- Do not soften (even in hot drinks)
- Biodegradable & compostable
- Robust & unbreakable
Disadvantages of #IAMPLASTICFREE drinking straw Wood
- Slightly woody aftertaste with plain water
- Can hardly be used more than once
11. #IAMPLASTICFREE Straw 2.0 - Pros & Cons
So there is no alternative with all the positive properties of the classic straw and at the same time sustainable? Yes - and really without any plastic. As with bamboo drinking straws, we use 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 does not soften and can even be put in the dishwasher a few times. If they are to be disposed of, they can simply be put in the home compost where they will decompose in a few weeks, or in the general waste. In any case, they leave no microplastic behind.
With the white print on the black drinking straws, guests immediately notice that these straws are different. They immediately understand that the company is committed to sustainability and can share their experience on social media using the hashtag #IAMPLASTICFREE. In doing so, you are making a lasting statement all over the world in two ways.
Benefits of #IAMPLASTICFREE Straws 2.0
- Rather low acquisition costs (0.08-0.10€ per straw)
- Do not soften (even in hot drinks)
- Reusable a few times
- Biodegradable & compostable
- Easy changeover for restaurateurs and guests
- Production in Germany → Short delivery routes
- A clear statement for plastic-free gastronomy
Disadvantages of #IAMPLASTICFREE straws 2.0
- No kink
- One color only
So there are many alternatives to plastic drinking straws - now it's just a matter of finding the right one for you. You should consider how often you use the straws and whether the acquisition costs for some models are really worth it. After all, delicious drinks are part of a good meal, an aperitif or just a short break in between. So they are the perfect opportunity to simply get involved in sustainable gastronomy.
Our comparison showed: With straws made from biogenic waste, you come close to the properties of classic drinking straws and avoid plastic faster than you even uttered the word "straw". With the hashtag on our straws, you can communicate your commitment to your guests in a contemporary and unambiguous way and easily spread the word.
The #IAMPLASTICFREE drinking straws 2.0 and Wood are our clear favorites for sustainable gastronomy 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.