San Francisco is establishing one of the widest plastic straw bans in 2020, prohibiting even compostable plastic straws (PLA) because they act like conventional plastic in our environment if littered. This means that single-use straws sold in San Francisco must be now biodegradable, which is fantastic by all means! Establishments all over the city are getting an early start, such as many boba places switching out plastic for bamboo fiber straws and also selling metal options.
Those who want to reduce this waste one step further should think about owning their own straw—one that can be washed and reused multiple times. I only own two types: bamboo and metal. Here are some thoughts on these two popular straw options…
Since bamboo is a plant that’s incredibly fast-growing it’s also a renewable resource. What’s even better is that bamboo is fully biodegradable! and However, there are some downsides to this material.
Bamboo straws are somewhat porous on the inside (but less so than wood). Some have experienced difficulty using a bamboo straw while drinking carbonated beverages. Because bamboo stalks are linear, it’s not possible to find a bendy straw made from bamboo; this might hinder it from being useful for those who specifically need flexible bendy straws, such as those with disabilities or the elderly.
Another issue with bamboo is that they’re generally not recommended for dishwasher. Bamboo’s porosity and ability to biodegrade means being submerged or exposed to water or steam for long periods of time can compromise the longevity of the bamboo fiber. If washed in the dishwasher, it’s best to skip the heat-drying function and let them air-dry.
Another thing I’ve noticed: my bamboo straw, and the ones I’ve come across in-store, have very small openings. This isn’t ideal for boba, smoothie drinkers or any type of thickened beverage. Luckily, there are bamboo straws with wide openings if you look hard enough~
Metal is much more resilient than bamboo, but it has its’ drawbacks.
Because the hard material doesn’t bend, it is a definite safety hazard and must be used carefully. Firstly, it can damage your teeth if you tend to bite or chew on your straws. They’ve also been proven to be deadly: in the UK it was the cause of one death when a woman fell while using it type of cup with a lid that fixed the metal straw in place (for example, the mason jar cups with holes for the straw to go through) and it impaled her through the eye.
Fall risks like children, those with epilepsy, and the inebriated are better off using different types of straw—perhaps the portable hybrid straw where the tips are made of soft silicone?
There are quite a few different reusable straws like silicone and glass, which each have different and unique qualities. I highly recommend shopping around for a straw that works best for your needs… or just push for your local governments to ban plastic straws so businesses must provide biodegradable ones, like San Francisco~! ☺︎