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Best alternatives to plastic straws

plastic straws

With plastic straws quickly becoming an endangered species, we survey some sustainable alternatives.

In February of 2019, NYC lawmakers introduced a bill to ban single-use plastic straws in all five boroughs. “There are 500 million straws being used every day in the U.S.,” the bill’s lead sponsor, Rafael L. Espinal Jr., told NY1. “That’s enough to fill Yankee Stadium five times over.” After reviewing the feasibility of dumping all those straws into Citi Field, the city council instead moved to consider the new rule.

New York is following the lead of major cities across the U.S., as well as Portland, OR,
in banning single use plastic straws. Whether you agree with saving the turtles, or want to frack every drop of fossil fuel from the ground as the sea-levels rise, the plastic straw ban is likely coming to a city near you.

Here are some ecologically sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic straws you can consider in your bar or restaurant.

Wheat Stem Straws
You can’t get more natural, sustainable and back-to-the-land than a wheat stem straw. If your customers are the type to debate if vodka is gluten-free, wheat stem straws might be a good fit.

wheat straws

Pros:
Looks great if you serve everything in a mason jar
Is debatably gluten-free

Cons:
Why are you serving everything in mason jars? What is this? 2012?
I’m sure the paper straw was invented for a reason

Paper Straws
1888 was a time of great hope and change, but there was a problem: people only had natural grasses to use as straws. Enter Marvin Stone. He invented the paper straw and ushered in the modern era of not touching one’s mouth to the glass one is drinking from.

paper straws

Pros:
Easy to find from most restaurant suppliers
Can impart an “old-timey” feeling to a classic cocktail menu

Cons:
More expensive than plastic straws
Tends to dissolve in liquid (ie, the drinks you serve them in)

Metal Straws
Going in another direction, you can focus on the “single use” problem of straws. Metal straws are durable up to 2500°F, which is a pretty METAL af dishwasher temperature.

metal straws

Pros:
Reusable for up to 25 years
They are so, like, “METAL”

Cons:
These will be stolen and thrown away, just like those demitasse spoons you keep having to re-purchase, negating their reusability
It’s all fun and games until someone chips a tooth

Glass Straws
For a futuristic, design-oriented solution, look no further than the glass straw. Glass straws look cool – what could go wrong?

glass straws

Pros:
They look very cool
You can see if they’re clean

Cons:
We’re heading into “Love Rose” territory
You can see that they are never clean

Shell Straws
Another reusable solution is the Shell Straw. It’s 100% natural, with a zero carbon footprint. Its polished shell design makes it an attractive addition to your beverage program, particularly if you’re on that island theme tiki trend that every third new bar seems to be following.

Pros:
Reusable, cutting down on waste
Comprised of 100% natural materials

Cons:
Made from actual turtles

turtle

Jack Hott

Jack Hott has more than 20 years experience in the hospitality industry. Along the way he’s flipped burgers, tossed pizzas and spilled a lot of wine on white table cloths.

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