Six Alternatives To Plastic Straws In Bars And Restaurants

Why do I need to stop using plastic straws?

We all know the stats on how terrible plastic straws are for the environment, and your customers do too. If you keep using plastic straws, your customers will notice.

Customers and governments are demanding sustainability from the hospitality industry. Bar and Restaurant owners are under urgent pressure to establish their venue's sustainable reputation to avoid being rejected by diners and punished by officials.

Straws have become the visible indication of a venue's sustainable and social consciousness. Environmentally unfriendly choices will repel potential customers so it is imperative that venues get this right. 

Statistics show that the stakes are high for the hospitality industry when it comes to embracing sustainability:

  • 73% of consumers say they would definitely change their consumption habits to reduce their environment impact.

    Nielsen Poll

  • 81% of global respondents feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment.

    Nielsen Poll

  • 38% of consumers say they’re inclined to pay higher-than-average prices for products with sustainable materials as sustainability can represent premium indicators such as quality, superior function and uniqueness.
    Nielsen Poll

Even if the environment isn't really your thing, national and state governments in the USA, EU and UK have committed to plans to force venues to get on board within the next 2 years through banning single-use straws.

There is urgency to get ahead of the game.

Aren't bio-plastic compostable straws the answer?

"Biodegradable" bio-plastic compostable corn-based straws must be disposed of in an industrial high heat composter in order to biodegrade.

Unfortunately, most businesses and their customers do not have access to this specific requirement and instead throw their bio straws in the rubbish bin. The straws end up in landfill or blow into the oceans, where they break down in exactly the same way as a normal plastic straw.

In landfill they will never decompose. In the ocean they will break up into microplastics, poisoning marine life and contaminating the human food supply.

Bio straws are still a single-use disposable and waste the world's finite resources as they are re-manufactured constantly to be used for just a few minutes. Land use for bio-plastic crops competes with food crops and contributes to deforestation.

There's a reason San Francisco have banned bio straws alongside plastic straws...

Unfortunately venues think they are doing the right thing with these straws but are actually being lied to through marketing which is infuriating for everybody.

Learn the 5 reasons you shouldn't use bioplastic straws in your bar here and learn more about the sustainability of the different plastic straw alternatives, including bioplastic, by clicking here.

Aren't paper straws the answer?

Not really...

Paper straws are still a single-use disposable and still waste the world’s finite resources (water, timber and land for logged trees) as they are remanufactured constantly to be used for just a few minutes.

Many major paper straw brands are not FSC certified, meaning they are sourced from non-sustainable forests. FSC certification ensures that wood/paper products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits to the community local to the forest. Check for the FSC logo on your paper straw supplier's website... if it isn't there then the paper is likely not ethically sourced.

Paper straws cannot be recycled once contaminated with food or drink, so most will end up in the rubbish bin. In landfill, a paper straw will never decompose as there is no oxygen (25% of all waste in landfill is paper!). Thankfully, however, if they are blown into the ocean they will decompose in 6 weeks (although this decomposition will emit CO2).

Paper straws quickly go soggy and taste awful, ruining your customer's drink and forcing them to use 2-3 per drink, overall increasing your use of single-use disposable straws.

Pros and cons of paper straws

What about bamboo straws?

Bamboo straws are disposable- they can be used 1-15 times before they break- which wastes water and energy. Land use for bamboo crops competes with food crops and contributes to deforestation.

Bamboo straws also pose health and safety concerns as they absorb saliva and other liquids, and the porous bamboo is difficult to clean. A bamboo straw that has been re-used in different drinks will begin affecting the taste of future drinks. Bamboo cannot be cleaned in the glasswasher, so require individual scrubbing which is time consuming.

Pros and cons of bamboo straws

What about pasta straws?

Pasta straws break down in compost and in the ocean, which is a great benefit however as they are a single-use disposable they waste the world's resources to re-manufacture them repeatedly to be used just once. Replacing single-use plastic with single-use pasta is still wasteful and doesn’t fix the problem. Shouldn't we be trying to stop food waste?

Land use for pasta straw wheat crops compete with food crops and contributes to deforestation.

Pasta straws also pose a health and safety concern for your customers as they are not gluten free and could cause issues with allergies.

Learn about how much your business will lose over 10 years if you use pasta straws (and other plastic straw alternatives) by clicking here.


What about glass straws?

Glass straws are reusable, which is great for the environment! But, there are safety concerns with them breaking or chipping and staff need to handle them with care while cleaning them which is time consuming.


And finally.... metal straws?

The carbon footprint of reusable metal straws is no different from your normal metal knives and forks.

A metal straw needs to be served approx. 127 times to become carbon neutral  - which is 2-3 months of service in a bar or restaurant. After this it is carbon positive and has created no single-use waste in its lifetime of use!

Metal straws can be recycled if ever required so never has to end up in landfill.

Metal straws are reusable and can quickly and easily be washed in the glasswasher or dishwasher (although the bent versions are harder to clean!)

There are, of course, some important things to consider when it comes to metal straws - like cost, safety, sustainability and theft.

Worried about the safety of metal straws for customers? Read our analysis based on our experience by clicking here.

Worried about cost? Read our analysis of how much businesses are losing on the different straw options by clicking here now. How much are you willing to lose over the next 10 years?

You can learn the two best strategies to avoid theft of your metal straws here.

And, read a detailed analysis of the sustainability of the different straw options by clicking here.






Every Thursday you will receive an email with insights about sustainability trends, actionable industry analysis and exclusive offers for subscribers

You can unsubscribe at any time!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published