We produce a substantial amount of plastic waste and the only options that are left for us is to either throw or discard them. This waste includes fruit peels and vegetables, tea leaves, egg shells, tissue boxes, water bottles, plastic utensils and so on.
Some of this waste (fruit peels and vegetables, egg shells and tea leaves) has the ability to break down with the help of the bacteria and return to nature.
Such wastes are named as biodegradable substances whereas plastic utensils, water bottles and tissue boxes cannot be broken down by natural organisms and acts as a source of pollution.
These types of waste are known as non-biodegradable substances.
Now, we all know that non-biodegradable substances are hazardous to the environment and have become a global problem. The question is, what can be done to avoid risk and threats associated with waste disposal to save nature from pollution?
What can be used in place of plastic straws?
Plastic pollution is one of the biggest threats faced by the environment. Statistics have shown that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fishes by 2050 if no actions are taken to combat this environmental problem.
To curb this threat, many brands are switching from non biodegradable to sustainable alternatives (polylactic acid) as this biodegradable substance can break down and is not so toxic to the environment. Many restaurants and corporate organizations worldwide are phasing out plastic straws and replacing them with biodegradable straws.
There are many other environmentally friendly materials that can be used as a straw, such as:
Why bamboo straws? This may surprise you but bamboo makes a great drinking straw as it is fully biodegradable.
Bamboo is the earth’s most sustainable plant and can be used to make a variety of products such as clothing, flooring materials, phone covers and toothbrushes.
Purchasing bamboo straws that are made from real bamboo shoots is extremely planet-friendly. Not only that, while single-use plastics cause lots of pollution to the environment, but straws made from bamboo also have no negative effect on our environment.
This organic, eco-friendly straw is definitely safe for children to use as it has no sharp-edges.
Once the bamboo straw is fully used, you can simply toss them onto your compost heap where they will break down naturally and of course this can be the best soil conditioner for your garden!
Stainless steel straws have significant advantages as well as it is safe and durable. It is not fragile and is easy to clean after use. This type of material is also dishwasher-safe. All you have to do is to simply rinse it and place it in the dishwasher.
Some stainless straws come with mini brushes that clean inside of the straw. They are portable and it is perfect to bring and use for camps, outings, at school or at work. Since stainless straw is hard to bend, they will not break when packed, making them perfect for any outdoor use.
One of the possible disadvantages of this material is the chill factor. Stainless straws can absorb and retain hot or cold temperatures.
Let’s say if you are drinking Slurpee, the straw will turn cold and this might make it a little hard to sip. To top it off, unlike a paper or polylactic acid straw, a stainless steel straw is not flexible and could possibly jab you in your mouth or gums if you are not too careful.
Still, there are certain stainless steel straws that come with a silicone tip so that it’s safe for children to use.
Hay straws are new disposable straws that are making an entry into the eco-friendly straw movement. Made from wheat stems, they are known to be the best eco-conscious innovation that has been seen by the food and water beverage industry.
Hay straws are created as environmentally friendly alternatives to plastic straws as this reusable material is made from the thin and naturally hollow stems of wheat plants. It is water resistant and of course, biodegradable. When wheat is grown and ready to be harvested, farmers pluck the ‘heads’ of the wheat plant. The ‘head’ consists of kernels which are then processed and grounded into flour.
Rather than throwing away the remainder of the wheat plants, they can be collected, trimmed and sanitized before processing them to disposable drinking straws.
Unlike paper, hay will not go soggy in a drink and it doesn’t require cleaning like stainless steel straws. It can be rinsed and tossed into your dishwasher. Another added advantage is that it is an excellent material that can be placed in a compost pile when it cannot be used anymore.
Process of making a straw
There are few steps that have to take place for a straw to be manufactured. The plastic resin and other components are mixed together, there is the extrusion of the mixture in a tube shape, subsequent specialized operations and packaging before being shipped.
Basically, all straws go through a similar process, whether it is made of plastic or biodegradable material. Let’s take a closer look at these steps
The polypropylene resin will be first combined with colorants, antioxidants, plasticisers and fillers. Then, all these substances will be tossed into an extrusion compounder that mixes, melts and forms beads of the blended plastic.
These powders are then mixed together and melts along the way as they travel down to the barrel of the extruder. Special screws are used to push the powder along its path. The now molten mixture is pushed out through a series of small holes at the other end of the extruder into cooling water where a series of knives cuts these molten mixtures into short pellets.
These pellets are then gathered and dried before being coated with other additives before packaging.
After the pellets are dried and ready to be moulded, they will be sent to another extrusion moulder which produces a hollow tube shape.
The pellets are placed into the hopper at one end of the machine. As the molten mixture passes through the machine, the pellets become more flowable.
By the time the pellets reach to the end of the machine, it completely melts and can be easily pushed out through the opening of the die. The pellets then flow out through the die in a long string in the shape of a straw.
Then, the mixture hardens before it is directed through the cooling stage to freeze the internal dimension of the straw. These long straws are then cut according to the desired length by a knife assembly.
Some of these straws may undergo this additional process if the straws require special designs such as bend, loops and also turns.
These kinds of straws will be moulded using special molding equipment that creates a series of grooves that allow the straw to flex without cutting off.
After this process, the straw is ready to be packaged!
Is it healthier to drink through a straw?
According to Delta Dental of Colorado, there are several oral health benefits you can enjoy if you practise drinking beverages via a straw. This includes-
Less enamel deterioration and less tooth sensitivity
Acidic beverages such as alcohol, lemonade and apple cider vinegar have lots of potential of wearing away the enamel layer of the teeth due to the high level of pH.
This can contribute to a higher risk of oral-related problems. One can avoid the risk of enamel deterioration by consuming these beverages with biodegradable straws.
There is a reduced chance of cavities when you use a straw to sip on your drinks. It is highly recommended for sugary drinks to not come in direct contact with the teeth to avoid sugary residue in between and on the teeth as it then has a higher risk of cavity formation.
Prevent tooth discolouration
Drinking beverages with straw allows you to avoid tooth discolouration. We cannot deny that beverages which are strong and have a strong potential to cause dark stains (especially coffee and tea) can cause discolouration of teeth over the course of time.
Using a straw to sip in your coffee and tea can maintain the whiteness of your teeth.
Benefits of biodegradable straws
We can’t deny that there are a ton of benefits for biodegradable straws. Amongst the more popular reasons are:
One of the main benefits of using biodegradable straws is it is very eco-friendly. Biodegradable straws are manufactured from renewable sources so by purchasing these types of straws, you are playing a part in keeping garbage out of landfills.
Not only that, the production of biodegradable straws means fewer carbons are emitted. Therefore, by using these eco-friendly straws, it helps to reduce air pollution.
Plastic straws cannot be recycled as it is hard plastic. There are higher chances that these plastic straws may end up in a landfill for years to come or pollute our ocean, affecting marine life.
Unlike plastic straws, biodegradable straws are made from materials that are very easy to break down and one doesn’t have to worry if these straws end up in landfill as it has the ability to decompose itself naturally and you can recycle them when they are used.
Save marine life
A great portion of single use plastic straws is dumped into the sea and affect life underwater. This is very dangerous to fishes, turtles and other marine lives as they accidentally consume these plastics.
However, most of the biodegradable straws do not have this problem as these products are made from plants. This means these biodegradable straws decompose faster and there is a smaller chance of it ending up in the ocean.
Where can you get biodegradable straws?
Biodegradable straws are now easily available at various leading green product manufacturers like Green Compostables. Do your part for the environment by just switching to biodegradable materials in your everyday use.
In a nutshell, biodegradable straws are better than plastic straws as they help to protect the environment. These straws are quicker to decompose and will not affect marine life. Not only that, these straws are a great way to protect your oral health and also brings much better benefits in terms of cost, biodegradability and durability.