Updated: May 23, 2021
Bamboo Straws are a new concept hitting North America. Other countries are already embracing Bamboo Straws as plastic straw replacements. Canada itself is planning to ban harmful single use plastics possibly by 2021 (Canada to ban harmful single-use plastics and hold companies responsible for plastic waste). Many companies that have already transitioned, found paper straws as a replacement while others are still waiting for a solution. Other available options are metal, glass, or bamboo.
Bamboo plants are considered one of earth’s most sustainable plants. Its common for a single bamboo pole to grow three to four feet within a single day under the right conditions. In areas with soil erosion, bamboo is planted to help control the erosion and enrich the natural environment. With bamboo roots growing its poles close together, the strength in numbers increase chances of enrichment. When bamboo poles are removed from their roots, the regrowth process begins from the root as a new pole. Given the appropriate space and growing conditions, bamboo plants are able to sustain themselves with minimal human intervention.
One noticeable bamboo characteristic is its durability. The strength of the wood is comparable to that of building hardwood and demonstrated to be stronger than concrete. When manufactured as a straw, the durability is maintained in proportion to its size. It may be reused multiple times in a single day and withstand multiple cycles in a dishwasher. We tested the same set of bamboo straws in eleven different dishwasher cycles to date with uses in between. The bamboo straw still showed the same shape, strength and appeal with additional uses awaiting. In regards to bio-degradable traits, bamboo requires a few years to decompose naturally but approximately six months when composted.
Plastic straws on the other hand do not decompose and disposal methods are costly in different forms. They may be recycled but the ability to breakdown the plastic and reuse it is only a fraction of its original state. It could be argued that the majority of plastic straws are littered or thrown in the garbage rather than recycling. Unrecycled straws may end up in numerous places, including the viral video of the sea turtle with one in its nose. To see the video, please find in our VIDEOS page (Plastic Straw Dangers) on our website.
Paper straws may be perceived as the cheapest alternative to plastic straws but attached with some claims. Some claims suggest the chemicals used to color the paper straws and the adhesives are unknown and when dissolved in a liquid, it is consumed by the person. A second claim refers to the manufacturing of paper straws requiring more energy to manufacture than its plastic counterpart. Similar to claims made with energy used to mine lithium for battery manufacturing, there may be a higher environmental cost than perceived with paper straws. Please read more in the Forbes article (Electric Vehicles are Driving Demand for Lithium – With Environmental Consequences).
Another alternative is the metal straw. Metal straws are sleek, reusable, durable and serve its purpose, however, its cost is a jump from plastic straws. With humans being humans, a replacement may be required after accidental bending, dropping, damaging, or misplacing the metal straw. The pricey replacement costs remain the same. The manufacturing of metal straws may be crafted with sophisticated machinery for the mass scale, which requires more energy than the alternatives. When it comes to sustainability, metal straws require people and an organized process to recycle. It may be great for the economy but the benefits are difficult to measure.
The last alternative to mention is the glass straw. Glass straws appear simple in design and can be customized in most artwork within the glass molding industry. They are beautiful in their design and structure but the costs and fears of consuming small glass fragments are difficult to ignore. In addition to the potential dangers, glass straws may be the most expensive of all plastic straw alternatives. Glass is also dependent upon recycling techniques but recent findings show flaws in the recycling process.
Overall, every individual is free to make their own choices and have different needs to satisfy. Sometimes different occasions call upon different solutions, however the bamboo straw is 100% natural, naturally sustainable, durable, affordable, and visually appealing. The bamboo straw holds a balanced solution and the advantage in cost and sustainability.