Plastic-Free Straws – Which Material Is Best?

orange and white straws

Which plastic-free straws are worth buying? It can be hard to tell without spending loads on several types.

Plastic single-use straws have been banned since 2020 in the UK. They were singled-out due to their lightweight nature and high probability of being littered; due to how small they are, they are easily blown into water where they are eaten or inhaled by sea life – I’m sure we’ve all seen that video of the turtle with the straw in its nose. Other single-use plastic products have been banned or will be banned too, like plastic cotton buds, plastic stirrers, and single-use plastic cutlery and plates, which make up 70% of marine litter. The charge on plastic bags has decreased their numbers in the ocean, so its clear that these bans work.

There have been a number of plastic-free straws popping up as alternatives in recent years, even before the ban. Now they are commonplace, but all of that choice makes it difficult to find a straw that works for you! We’ve compiled a list of all the different types of plastic-free straws out there so you can find one that works best for you, rating them out of seven for our criteria:

  • reusability
  • accessibility
  • safety
  • soggyness
  • taste
  • disposal
  • sustainability
Wheat Straws

Wheat straws are 100% natural, made from wheat (obvs) that is considered a waste product of the agricultural industry, meaning they’re saving resources and cutting down on waste, as well as preventing CO2 from being released in the burning process of said waste.

They’re waterproof and don’t affect the taste of your drink. They don’t bend, meaning accessibility may be an issue, but do squish when squeezed, making them safer for children than other non-bendy straws. Once you’re finished with them, you can put them in the compost!

Our rating: 5/7

Bamboo Straws
a close up shot of a cup with bamboo straws

We love bamboo here at Between Green! It’s a natural material that is antibacterial and antifungal, as well as being durable and a quickly-renewed resource.

Bamboo straws are reusable for a while and can be washed, but they absorb flavour, even though they won’t get soggy. They don’t bend, but are very sturdy and won’t snap easily. They are also compostable.

Our rating: 5/7

Cane Straws

Cane straws are much like wheat straws in that they are produced from a by-product of the agricultural industry, making them a sustainable choice.

Cane straws can be used for hot or cold drinks without sogginess, and can be washed and reused. It’ll even take on multiple bites before breaking! Of course, as these are made from sugarcane, you can compost them at home at the end of their lives, too.

Our rating: 6/7

Paper Straws

Paper straws are the go-to for restaurants, bars and cafes now, as they’re cheap to make. Even though they’re recyclable, they’re tricky to recycle as they’re so small – the machines have problems trying to sort them. They’re also not usually sustainably made, with the process taking a lot of energy and can contain toxic chemicals.

I think we’re probably all aware that paper straws aren’t reusable, go soggy and absorb liquid. Once they do go soggy, it affects the flavour of the drink, which is an unpleasant experience! They’re pretty safe for children to use, however, and can be composted (as long as they don’t have a coating or lining),

Our rating: 2/7

Seaweed Straws

This is a rare find on the market at the moment, but seaweed straws are made from – you guessed it – seaweed! Seaweed straws are therefore safe for marine life if they find their way to the ocean, and will break down quickly on land or in water.

Seaweed looks and feels like plastic when made into a straw, except it can be eaten, making it safe if children decide to have a munch. It can be reused a few times without going soggy, but cannot be cleaned easily and is said to have a ‘neutral’ taste. They’re only made by one company in the US at the moment, but we think they’ll be the next big thing in plastic-free straws!

Our rating: 5/7

Metal Straws

Despite metal straws being reusable, they produce 150 times the amount of greenhouse gas emissions compared to a single-use plastic straw, and 90 times the energy. However, they are infitely reusable and recyclable whereas plastic straws are not.

Metal straws can be straight or bent, meaning they are a little more accessible to those who cannot drink from a ‘top down’ position. They often come with cases and cleaning brushes, like the above to help with their reusabiluty. They’re durable and won’t go soggy, of course, but are considered unsafe for children due to the risk of hitting teeth or impaling the throat when falling. It should also be noted that some straws will have a metallic taste, and they cannot be used for hot drinks due to metal being a heat conductor.

Our rating: 4/7

Glass Straws

Glass straws are very recyclable, biodegradable and sustainably made. They also come in some beautiful designs and, because they’re see-through, can be checked for any dirt.

Glass straws can come in a bent position, making it more accessible than straight-only straws. However, they are also a safety hazard for children due to the risk of shattering. You can use them in hot drinks, but the glass will heat up to the temperature of the liquid. Of course, they are non-soggy, don’t affect taste, reusable and cleanable.

Our rating: 6/7

Edible Straws

Edible straws can be made of a few different things, such as pasta, rice, chocolate or wafer! They’re usually used for smoothies or milkshakes, and sometimes fun cocktails. Some materials might go soggy, but others won’t, and they’re all generally quite sustainably made.

They’re yummy and safe for children to nibble on and don’t produce any waste when finished with, but they are also usually compostable and always biodegradable if you don’t want to eat them (why not?!). They’re therefore single use and do affect the taste of the drink, but in a good way, so we won’t count that against them.

Our rating: 4/7

Collapsible Straws

Collapsible straws can be made from different materials – metal, plastic, silicone – and feature bendable parts (usually made of plastic) which means the straw can be stored smaller, making it a good choice for travel.

Metal collapsible straws are the most common, meaning it’s not the safest thing for children, or the most accessible. They are also more difficult to recycle due to the mix of materials on the straw. However, they’re fairly easy to clean due to the smaller sections, won’t go soggy or ruin the taste of your drink and are very reusable.

Our rating: 3/7

Silicone Straws

Silicone straws sound like they’d be unsustainable – after all, we’re supposed to avoid silicons in other products – but they’re not! They’re part of the rubber family, so they don’t leach chemicals in your drinks, and made of silica, which is a natural material.

Silicone straws are considered the most accessible and safe due to their bendy-ness and squishy texture. They also don’t affect the taste of a drink and don’t go soggy. They can go in a dishwasher as they’re a little harder to clean by hand, and can be reused for a long time. When they’re finished, you can simply recycle them! They don’t release anything harmful into the land or sea when they break down.

Our rating: 7/7

You can find some silicone straws with handy carry cases in our shop!

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