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How plastic straws took over the world

Friday, 3/05/2019

It started with a mint julep on a hot summer day.

At the beginning of July 2018, Seattle became the largest U.S. city to ban all plastic utensils, including straws, from bars and businesses city-wide.

And, they’re not alone.

In September, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a first-of-its-kind bill aimed at reducing straw waste in the state. Starting in 2019, sit-down restaurants in the Golden State won’t serve any drinks with straws, unless customers ask for them.

Starbucks has made a commitment to get its iconic green sippers completely off store shelves by 2020 while McDonald’s announced it will ban plastic straws at its U.K. and Ireland restaurants. Bon Appétit Management, a food service company with 1,000 locations across the U.S., announced last May it will ditch plastic straws. Alaska Airlines will be the first airlines to get rid of plastic straws and stirrers, partly thanks to an environmentally conscious girl scout.

But the truth is that straws are just the tip of the trash heap when it comes to plastic waste.

In the U.S. alone, nearly 500 million plastic straws are used every day, many of which end up polluting the environment estimated as many as 8.3 billion plastic straws pollute the world’s beaches. While the number may seem extreme, you likely have not taken notice of the straws you use. Nearly every time you order a drink at a restaurant, there’s always a chance you’ll receive a straw to go along with it.

Unfortunately, while this may seem harmless, Australian scientists estimated about eight million tons of plastic flow into the ocean every year, and straws have been a focus for change since, for most able-bodied people, the straw is often something you can easily do without.

In other words, phasing out the plastic straw from your daily use likely does not require a radical change in your behavior. However, while the straw is not necessary implements, it is found in nearly every home and restaurant across the world.

Who Started Using Straws?

Drinking straws are one of the oldest utensils and became popular during the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s while plastic straws are a recent invention. Ancient Sumerians were known to be one of the first societies brew beer—5,000 years—very long time ago, thin tubes made from precious metals to reach the liquid below the line of fermentation.

In the 1880s, Marvin Stone was the first to file a patent for a drinking straw. Reportedly, Stone was drinking a mint julep on a hot summer day when his piece of ryegrass, then used as a straw, began to break down. Stone, a paper cigarette holder manufacturer, decided to make something better.

He wrapped strips of paper around a pencil, glued them together, and soon had an early prototype of paper drinking straws. He patented his design in 1888, and by 1890 was mass producing them.

It was not until the 1930s that inventor Joseph Friedman added indentations to the paper straw so they could easily bend without breaking. Friedman patented his invention and created the Flex-Straw Company to churn out his design.

Hospitals were the first to embrace these new bendable straws as they allowed their patients to drink while lying in bed.

In the following decades, the popular paper straws have been founded across America.

Plastic Straws Hit the Market

Plastic straws were one of many throw-away products being rapidly manufactured by large corporations and quickly became cheaper and more durable than paper. Moreover, they could easily wedge into a fast food restaurant’s to-go lid without ripping or tearing. Throughout the 1960s, the manufacturing infrastructure to mass produces plastic straws were put into place.

David Rhodes, the global business director for paper straw manufacturer Aardvark Straws, a division of Precision Products Group commented “It was better, it was cheaper, and they didn’t fall apart. It truly was a better product at a cheaper price, and in that era, no one looked at the future impact it would have on our environment.”

A number of large manufacturers were meeting the demands of a society looking for single-use items that could be taken away. Plastics Europe, one of the largest plastic producers, reported that 1.5 million tons of plastic were produced in 1950. However, by 2015, this number had multiplied to 322 million tons of plastic.

It’s Time To Phase Out All Kinds Of Plastic

The world is now fighting to recover from its plastic pollution hangover. Many countries are aggressively regulating plastics already. In 2008, Rwanda was one of the first places in the world to ban plastic bags. Morocco, once a land loaded with fields full of drifting plastic bags, in 2016, banned the production, sale, and import of plastic completely. Both California and Hawaii followed suit, while other states (like Michigan) came up against the idea of ever weaning themselves off plastics and banned bans. India says all single-use plastic will be banned there by 2022. In England, Queen Elizabeth now insists that no plastic straws or bottles appear on the royal estates.

The EPA has also helped promote the simple “reduce, reuse, recycle” motto. Cohen hopes people can add one more word “refuse” into the mix in 2018. So, refusing plastic containers whether at a coffee shop, an ice cream stand, or the grocery store.

Choose Biodegradable Over Plastic Products

It is important to rethink society’s throwaway culture and become more sustainably creative. Ideally, seek to purchase products not made from, or packaged in, plastic. Another crucial point is to choose biodegradable drinking straws over single-use one. For instance, opting for the following alternatives to plastic straws will help you to inch closer to a minimal-waste lifestyle while reducing your share of plastics pollution:

Paper straws:

Used in many restaurants and bars as a more eco-friendly, compostable, and commercially viable alternative to plastic, paper straws are also an option for personal use in cold drinks. They come in many different colors and designs, and are perfect for any occasion! Besides being cute, paper straws are much better for the environment than plastic straws and decompose in just 30-60 days.

Bamboo straws: The bamboo straw is definitely the oldest product. You can easily see it in Japanese-style restaurants. These straws are both marine-friendly and reusable. They are handcrafted and free of dyes, which make a beautiful conversation piece.

The strength of the bamboo straw is to re-use it many times instead of using it once and then “throw it away” like other biodegradable drinking straws. In addition, bamboo straws have a sturdy body so the durability is also very good. The lifespan of a bamboo straw depends on how you store it, when the straw has signs of color reduction, return it to nature.

Grass straws: Grass straws are a very new product and are enjoyed by many because it does not need to go through so many stages of production as other types and has a quite cheap price.

These straws are the simplest replacement for single-use plastic straws. Instead, the stems of grain that would otherwise go to waste after harvesting are repurposed into more-eco-friendly single-use straws. These require no extra effort to clean and they have no smell or taste. However, the straws aren’t ideal for thick drinks such as smoothies due to the narrow stems.

Rice straws: Made of 100% natural, a combination of rice flour and wheat, “edible straw” is the name that young people gave to these straws. In cold drinks, rice straws can be used for 4-10 hours, and for hot drinks, they can last 2-3 hours. In particular, They have not used colorings as the regular straws, this rice flour straw is dyed from completely natural materials such as spinach leaves, beetroot, black sesame …

Even if you don’t eat this straw, its lifespan is very short, which can be easily decomposed in just a few months compared to the horrifying long lifespan of 500 years of plastic straws.

Vinastraws is a Vietnamese leading rice straws supplier and manufacturer. We are proud to be a prestige and quality company for domestic and international markets. With efforts in operating, production and business activities, we always towards customer satisfaction. Vinastraws committed to giving you the best experience with good products in terms of quality and environmental protection.

Source :

National Geographic