The Problem With Plastic Straws

Plastic straws are finally getting more attention in the media, and rightly so.

Although they have often been overshadowed by the menacing plastic bag and disposable cup, they have consistently been in the top 10 most commonly found plastic items, according to the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup data.

In the United States, over 500 million straws are thrown away every day. This is enough straws to circle the planet 2.5 times each day! Many end up in landfills as most disposable straws are made of polypropylene plastic which has a low recycling rate. This plastic waste doesn’t easily break down, and if it does it only breaks down into smaller pieces called microplastics. These tiny plastic bits are an enormous global problem as they cannot be removed from the environment. They attract toxins like pesticides and PCBs and are easily eaten by wildlife, toxifying their way up the food chain to humans too.

The biggest culprits for straw pollution are likely restaurants and bars that automatically give a straw with beverages whether customers want them or not. This practice NEEDS to stop. Most of the time, we don’t even need straws, and if we did, we could always simply just ask. Imagine if this norm was shifted so that straws were available only upon request? This would massively reduce straw waste, and it seems like such a no-brainer because it’s great for the environment and it saves companies some moola.

Some businesses are definitely tuning in and have started this voluntarily, like Crowbar, who posted this sign on the right. But the majority of restaurants aren’t on board, and why not? Because change takes time and effort and we need people out there pushing for it.

The good news is that straws are an easy item to tackle! First, because they aren’t completely necessary, and even when desired they can be easily substituted for healthier and safer reusable alternatives. And second, because we have all kinds of easy suggestions to help motivate our readers to join the movement and take action against straw waste.

Plastic Straw Alternatives

stainless steel straw in sleeve with cleaning brushStainless Steel

The stainless steel straws at Life Without Plastic are made of high quality 18-8 food grade 304 stainless steel and you can find them in all different sizes for your different needs. We wanted to make it easier to bring your straw with you so we got to the drawing board and had a new straw kit made that comes with the stainless steel straw, the cleaning brush, and a carrying case — everything you need to take it with you on the go!


glass straw


Glass straws are an amazing alternative to disposable plastic ones. They are reusable, like the bamboo and stainless steel ones, but the great thing about glass is that it is infinitely recyclable. This means that at the end of its life, it doesn’t go to the landfill. It can actually be re-purposed into something else and take on a new life. And being able to see through the glass makes them easier to clean.

bamboo straws


These are simply made from small stalks of bamboo and are a unique natural alternative to plastic straws. They are sustainably harvested and sold “as is” meaning they have not been re-compressed or tampered with in any way. These straws can be reused over and over again for years when properly taken care of, and are easily cleanable with a regular straw cleaner. At the end of their life, they can return to the Earth –they are totally compostable.  Find them here!

Disposable Straws

If disposables are absolutely necessary, there are a couple of options available that are significantly less harmful than plastic. Paper straws for example have been gaining popularity as their end of life is much cleaner than plastic. When thinking disposable, it is important to think biodegradable, compostable, or even edible.

Straw Straws are all ­natural, organic, sustainably-­farmed, 100% biodegradable and compostable, non-plastic straws produced in Maine. Yes, these straws are made in the U.S. from hand-­harvested, hand-cut winter rye.

Aardvark Straws offers U.S.-made, biodegradable, FDA-approved, non-plastic paper straws in various colours, designs and sizes.

Taking Action

The ball is rolling and change is happening but there is still lots of change to make, and we are reaching out to you to be a part of it! Here are four avenues you personally could pursue to have a serious positive impact:

  • Personal Actions:
    • Saying ‘No straw, please’ when you are out is an easy way to reduce your personal plastic footprint.
    • You can also use reusable straws as an alternative to disposable plastic ones.
    • Take the ‘No Plastic Straw Pledge’ with the Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC).
    • Visit The Last Plastic Straw for more resources.
  • Work with your local and online communities:
    • Use social media to raise awareness on straw pollution and to encourage people to use fewer straws. Maybe even start a challenge to engage your audience.
    • Share the PPC ‘No Plastic Straw Pledge‘ for a plastic straw-free life.
    • Start a petition for a local ban on plastic straws.
  • Work with your local political officials:
    • Talk to the people in politics to see how legislative changes can be made and how to go about it.
    • Bring your community together to create a plan of action and go forward with it.
  • Work with businesses:
    • Start a coalition of businesses against straw pollution. Map out the bars, restaurants, and cafes in an area and meet with their owners to ask them to be a part of a coalition of businesses against plastic waste. Members would agree to either not offer plastic straws at all, offer eco-friendly alternatives, or offer a straw only when requested. It’s a win-win situation — using less straws is great for the environment, great for their wallets, and great for their brand image.

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do”

~ Rob Siltanen