Sep 26th, 23

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Compostable Vs. Reusable Straws: Which One Is The Best Eco-Friendly Alternative

By Emily Hoang

A long breath out is probably the most common reaction when hearing someone talking about plastic pollution. As heavy-hearted as it might sound, plastic pollution actually starts with one item we use on a daily basis, a plastic straw.

Many people believe that the media and environmentalists exaggerate the seriousness of plastic waste even though several studies have been conducted. But sadly, numbers never lie. In the U.S alone, 500 million plastic straws are discarded daily, and that number can round up to approximately 2 billion each year.

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Plastic straws are made from petroleum-based plastics that will never or take hundreds of years to decompose. And as predicted, almost most of them end up in landfills. Worse, since they are too light, they often join in the blow of the wind and take over the rivers and oceans and live out the last of their days there. Those "drifters" negatively affect the environment, disrupting natural wildlife and polluting marine ecosystems.

However, we can't deny the very fact that straws' primary purpose is actually meaningful and practical. Over the years, they are an essential accessibility tool for people, especially the elderly, children, people with disabilities or patients, to enjoy their drinking more comfortably and unrestrictedly. That's why ditching straws out of our lives seems unrealistic and even unreasonable for straws themselves. Instead, switching to more sustainable and eco-friendly alternatives makes much more sense in allowing straws to continuously serve their mission yet still be able to protect our environment. This is when compostable and reusable straws get the attention they deserve.

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What Are The Differences Between Compostable And Reusable Straws?

Well-known as the favorite alternatives to plastic straws on the market these days, but some of us still can’t distinguish between compostable and reusable straws. Don’t worry; you are at the right place. We will give you the fundamental definition for each of them, so you can confidently explain it to your friends and family who are still confused about it and can start sustainable living effortlessly.

Compostable Straws

compostable straws

Compostable straws are mostly made from plant-based or organic materials that can easily break down naturally in 6 to 12 months, a much shorter time than plastics.

In the early age of compostable alternatives, paper straws are expected to finally resolve the plastic straws issue. Unfortunately, the manufacturing and decomposition of paper straws do release toxic chemicals into the environment.

More reliable, efficient, and eco-friendly products are introduced to solve the problem comprehensively, including plant-based compostable straws such as coffee straws, sugarcane straws, coconut straws, grass straws, bamboo straws, and rice straws. These not-paper biodegradable straws are made of natural materials from local agricultural resources, reducing waste disposal. Both manufacturing and decomposition of these straws don’t release any toxins harmful to the environment. You can also check out these beautiful natural straws to learn more about their inspirational stories.

Reusable Straws

reusable straws

As simple as their name indicates, reusable straws allow you to re-use them multiple times for months or even years. Some of the most popular materials for reusable straws are stainless steel, glass, silicone, and bamboo.

Even though these sustainable straws often consume more energy during their manufacturing process and emit a significant amount of carbon dioxide, they are still regarded as one of the most effective alternatives for environmental protection because of their long lifespan.

As a sustainable consumer, you may wonder which ones are better for the environment, between compostable and reusable straws. We have already made a quick comparison among these environmentally friendly straws based on certain aspects, so let’s keep reading to find out the answer.

Compostable Straws Vs. Reusable Straws: Environmental Friendliness

As mentioned above, producing and decomposing compostable drinking straws requires neither much energy nor discharging toxic chemicals to the environment. Yet, compostable straws are still single-use straws, which means the amounts of straw disposal are equal to the producing frequency. Also, while waiting for them to decompose on the grounds entirely, they still take up certain space in landfill unless manufacturers collect and compose them in their facilities.

Meanwhile, producing a single reusable straw like stainless steel straw is equivalent to producing 150 plastic straws. This number may confuse us about their eco-friendly ability. Fortunately, with their long lifetime, they just need to be produced once in a while. Either stainless steel or glass are reusable materials. However, if they are not collected at recycling facilities, they will become solid waste dumped into open waste stockpiles and cost a lot to dispose of.

Winner: Compostable Straws. Whether manufacturers recycle them or not, they eventually decompose to nature instead of ending up forever in landfills like reusable metal straws. More interestingly, some compostable straws, like rice straws, are even edible, so once you finish your drink, the straw is also relocated to your stomach as well.

Compostable Straws Vs. Reusable Straws: Durability

Compostable straws are often single-use straws. You can only reuse them a couple of times during a day or a maximum of up to a week. Plus, these straws are made from natural materials, so if you put strong enough pressure on them, they will break easily. Although most compostable straws are water and temperature-resistant, some may be less efficient in this capability.

On the other hand, reusable straws are extremely durable since the materials make them either solid or flexible. They can "dive" in any type of temperature and liquid.

Winner: Reusable Straws

Compostable Straws Vs. Reusable Straws: Price

Most compostable straws come in packs of 50 pieces or more for around $8 to $12. With that price, you can use for 2 to 3 months, depending on your drinking frequency.

Due to their higher material costs, reusable straws are often a bit more expensive than compostable straws. Depending on the material, such as stainless steel, glass, or silicone, the price can range from $15 to $25 for one or a set of three or four straws. The lifespan of these straws last years or even a lifetime. Hence spending on reusable straws is a cost-wise decision.

Winner: Tie. Even though reusable straws seem economical, keeping them usable for a long time requires more conditions. Keep reading, and you’ll know why.

Compostable Straws Vs. Reusable Straws: Ease of Use

You can use compostable straws right away after taking them out of the packaging. They also come in different sizes that fit every drink, from coffee to cocktails, smoothies, and even boba tea. Once done, you can clean and reuse them if they are still in good condition; otherwise, simply throw them away guilt-free, thanks to their self-composability.

Whilst, reusable straws require more after-use care. You will need a specialized brush or a reusable straw cleaner to clean them thoroughly. Dust often collects on silicone straws, requiring much more time and water for cleaning. Also, glass straws are fragile and need a proper storage place.

Winner: Compostable Straws.

Which Is Better: Compostable or Reusable Straws?

There is no absolute answer for every problem and choice. That’s not how the world works, and we should accept it. In this case, the better one relies primarily on the users themselves. Suppose you are a clumsy yet environmental lover, trying your best to remove plastics in your daily life with a more eco-friendly alternative. In that case, compostable straws seem a perfect match for you.

For those who are more serious and concerned about plastic pollution, especially if you wish to get rid of single-use waste in general, reusable straws are the best choice. One purchase for a lifetime, how much sustainable a product you can ask for, right?

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