Go to a restaurant.  Chances are when you get your beverage a plastic straw will come with it.  Sourcing Nova has looked high and low to find as much information as possible about straws and reusable straws.  We are ready to share our findings with you.

Straw history

To learn about this history of the straw, we have to go back to 3000 B.C.  The Sumerian people, quite fond of beer in large vats, would drink their beer from straws as the giant vats were much too big to pass around to one another.  Jumping forward to 1888, a man named Marvin Stone filed for and received a patent for a paper disposable straw made of manilla paper.  People at that time used rye grasses, which are hollow, to drink their beverages and enjoyed the taste of their drinks of choice as well as a lovely grass flavor.

In 1937, a man named Joseph Friedman watched his daughter struggle with a standard straight straw.  He created a prototype bendable straw but failed to get manufacturers to accept it.  Undaunted, Friedman created the Flexible Straw Corporation and manufactured his own bendable straws instead.

The boom of the 1950’s and 1960’s rise of fast food restaurants led to places using disposable materials, like plastic, instead of glassware.  In the 1960’s, the plastic straw made its first appearance and became the standard straw for the fast food restaurant industry.

The 1980’s see the first Krazy straws and jumbo straws.  In 2011, a nine year old boy named Milo Cress estimated an astounding 500 million plastic straws used per day in the U.S. alone.

August 2015, a marine biologist removes a plastic straw from the nasal passage of a turtle.  The effects of plastic on marine life really hits hard as the video draws over 35 million views.

France makes a huge leap forward against plastic dining ware – straws, cups, plates and dining utensils in 2016.

Lonely Whale looks to the power of the Internet in 2017 for a push towards A Strawless Ocean and single use plastic products.

The Queen of England bans plastic straws in all royal estates, cafes and shops in 2018.

Later in the same year, Vancouver B.C., bans all single use plastic straws in the city.

In the same month, a  Girl Scout, Shelby O’Neil, convinced Alaska Airlines to eliminate plastic straws and stirrers.  The airline plans on using bamboo instead of plastic straws from then forward.

Two months later, Seattle, Wash., bans plastic straws in the city.  The Starbucks coffee company, headquartered in Seattle, will remove all plastic straws from their locations by 2020.

As of September 2018, the McDonald’s International arm will replace single-use plastic straws in all of its locations in the U.K. and Ireland.

Lastly in 2019, the state of California moves to a “plastic straw on request” policy.  Washington D.C. bans plastic straws as well.

Why plastic straws

There are a few reasons people choose to use straws when drinking.

  • Hygenic – People do not want to put their mouths on the rim of a cup or glass and so use plastic straws.
  • Convenient – Plastic straws make it easier to drink.  A plastic straw with a lid cuts down on the chances of a spill also.
  • Better for certain drinks – Drinks like milkshakes and boba teas are more easily consumed from a plastic straw.
  • Attractive – The many colors and shapes of straws delight young and old people alike.

Plastic straws – bad for the environment

It was the video with the plastic straw stuck in the sea turtle’s nose that got many people to thinking plastic straws are not as good as they thought.

Another issue is the fact plastic straws do not biodegrade easily into the environment.  A straw in a landfill today will be there in 100 years from now and longer.

Plastic straws are not all bad

Some manufacturers and companies feel the energy and resources necessary to create different straws is worse on the environment than plastic straws.

There are some people with disabilities and/or restrictions that cannot drink from the rim of a cup or glass.  A plastic straw can be an excellent solution for their specific needs.

Alternatives to plastic straws

With so many countries, states, cities and companies moving to eliminate plastic straws from daily use, what are some potential alternatives to plastic straws for those who enjoy using straws?

Reusable straws

Those who want to be eco-conscious and also use straws fortunately have plenty of choices available to them.  The most common choice is a reusable straw set, and there are plenty of reusable drinking straws and straw sets to be found across the Internet.

Sourcing Nova has looked across the Internet for all of the best types of reusable straws and straw sets available today.  We can find the best possible options for you from any number of our manufacturers across China.

Metal straws – the first reusable straw

The most common of the reusable straws available today are stainless steel metal straws.  The best examples of stainless steel straws come in a set, come with a carrying case and cleaning brush – specifically designed to work with the metal straws in the set.

The better reusable metal straws and straw sets come with tips, often made of silicone, that gives the user a soft tip to rest in the mouth instead of sharply cold metal.  These tips can slide up and down the metal straws to adjust for the size of the beverage cup.

Reusable metal straws frequently come in a variety of diameters and often feature straight and flexible straws in the same set.

Metal straws are safe to use but are not recommended for small children.  There is a single documented case of a metal straw death.  A woman in the U.K. slipped and died when the metal straw pierced her fatality.  This, however, is an absolute tragic accident and should not determine whether or not reusable stainless steel metal straws are right for you.

There are other metals used for straws besides stainless steel including aluminum, which we covered previously could lead to health concerns, and titanium straws.

Bamboo straws

One of the newcomers to the reusable straw industry is the bamboo straw.  Bamboo is a natural, easily sustainable resource that grows fast and can be used in a variety of products.  Mostly made in India, the people there use bamboo straws to their beer.

Bamboo straws are also organic, so those who want to be eco-friendly and health conscious will appreciate this about these particular straws.

bamboo straws
bamboo straws

Surprisingly simple to make, those who have bamboo at home can make their own bamboo straws.  Cut straw length bamboo pieces, making sure to have portions between segments.  Let dry until tan.  Sand exterior and interior. You have a bamboo straw.

Cleaning bamboo straws is as easy as submerging them in soapy water, swish around and rinse.  Allow to air dry.

The only drawbacks to these two types of reusable straws is storage.  The lengths prevent storing in a smaller case or similar.  Fortunately, there are other straws available that are much more easily stored.

Silicone straws

The other popular reusable straws available from Sourcing Nova are the silicone straws.

Silicone Straws
Silicone Straws

Silicone is a highly heat resistant and flexible reusable material found frequently in the foodservice industry.  Silicone straws are eco-friendly and come in a variety of colors and sizes.  Some better silicone straws come with carrying cases that match the straw color.  Silicone straws can be straight or bent but cannot be flexed in a manner similar to a plastic flexible straw.  Some models come with a carrying case as well, but the flexibility of silicone straws mean you can fold and compress it down far enough to store almost anywhere until you are ready to use it.

Because these straws are flexible, silicone straws are much safer to use than metal straws for small children.  They are colorful and a big hit with kids.  Most silicone straw sets come in a variety of colors and can be shaped easily at the factory into a variety of shapes.

Cleaning is simple.  Silicone straws are easy to hand wash in warm water and soap.  Allow to air dry before storing.

Glass straws

Many will see glass and immediately think of when glass hit the floor and shattered, creating a potential hazard for all who walked across the floor.  This is often enough to turn them from the idea of reusable glass straws as a viable alternative to plastic straws.

Glass Straws
Glass Straws

Today’s glass straw is designed specifically to be shatter resistant and can withstand most dings, drops and accidents.  The reason – borosilicate glass.  A glass designed to be shatter resistant and safe for extreme temperature changes, borosilicate can handle temperature swings from ice cold to piping hot without issue.  Enjoy your milkshake, and wash your reusable glass straw in hot, soapy water immediately after without cause or care.

Smoothie straws

You have done it.  You get a smoothie or milkshake from your favorite location and spend 15 minutes trying to drink it through a straw.  The problem is most straws from these places are the same straws they use for soft drinks and are ill suited for the thicker smoothies and milkshakes.

Smoothie straws are often of a larger diameter allows the drinker to get more of the liquid up and into the mouth with less effort.

Boba straws

One of the drinks from the Orient that is taking the West is the Boba.

Boba tea, or bubble tea, is a tea and milk combination that features boba balls.  These balls are actually made from tapioca flour, mixed with sugar and other ingredients to make the balls called pearls.

The pearls have a variety of different sizes in the teas, so a wider mouth straw is necessary to suck them up and into the mouth.  This means most boba straws, bubble tea straws, are often two times as wide as a standard straw.

Some restaurants and smoothie shops offer plastic straws similar to a smoothie straw for boba teas.  The straw may be a bit wider in diameter, but the purpose is clear – get the boba pieces off of the bottom.

There are plenty of reusable boba tea straws on the market to choose from in a variety of materials from silicone to metal.

The wide mouth of this reusable straw is not exactly great for standard beverages.

One thing that all of these reusable straws have in common is you can carry them around with you in a pocket or purse.  There is one more type of reusable straw available to you, and this one is designed specifically for carrying.

Pocket straws

Those who love straws but also like being somewhat fancy will love the concept of pocket straws.  These telescopic straws collapse down like other models, open easily and are ready to use.

Many come with a silicone tip to make sipping easier.

The entire straw can collapse to the size of a small ink pen and fit neatly into a lapel pocket, purse, pocket or bag.

There is one other way people can keep up with their pocket straws as well.

Keychains are one of the things people enjoy collecting.  So adding a reusable straw keychain to a collector’s set not only is a unique gift idea there is practical purpose there as well.

A straw keychain is just that – a key fob that doubles as a telescoping straw.

Made of stainless steel, reusable metal straw keychains make users look sophisticated and chic when pulling one out for a power lunch or evening meal.

Other alternatives

Besides the many different straws Sourcing Nova has mentioned for you, there are other alternatives for those who are interested in having a reusable or recyclable straw set but are looking for something different.

  • Rubber straws

– If you see a rubber straw marketed from somewhere, this is just an alternative name for a silicone straw.

  • Paper drinking straws

– Today’s paper straws are a little more sturdy than those of the past.  Being paper, they recycle easily or decompose without issue.

  • Drinking straw caps

– These novelty caps are found in various places and usually are popular with sports fans.  These are not exactly easy to clean and take up a good bit of space.

Other related products

Coffee straws are misnamed because they are not used as straws but to stir creamer and sugar into coffee or to stir hot chocolate.  Mostly made of plastic, more modern silicone and reusable coffee straws are entering the market, restaurants and anywhere coffee is sold.

There are some who use the small coffee straws to drink their coffee as the small size and holes prevent burning the mouth.  Silicone works much better as plastic can melt in hot drinks like coffee.

Glass straw dispenser

If you are longing for the old days of soda jerks and servers on roller skates, chances are you remember the glass straw dispenser.  These tall glass containers often featured a beautifully ornate lid that people would lift and take a straw out for their old fashioned sodas.

Straw Dispenser
Straw Dispenser

[add_to_cart id=”616″]

The lid was connected to a plate on the bottom, so as the lid came up, the straws would fold out of the lip of the top for all to help themselves.

Questions people have about straws

Why can’t I use a straw after I have my wisdom teeth out?

Most people when they have their wisdom teeth removed have large holes in the back of their mouths.  Blood clots form in the sockets during the healing process.

The sucking motions necessary to use a straw could dislodge the clots and cause additional bleeding.

It is recommended to wait approximately two weeks before drinking from a straw after oral surgery and having teeth removed.  It is even more recommended to follow your surgeon’s instructions after surgery.

Can I drink alcohol through a straw?

This is a very common question for those who enjoy alcohol in moderation.

It is certainly possible to drink alcohol with a straw.

There is a myth that drinking alcohol through a straw will get the drinker intoxicated faster.  This is not the case.  Intoxication occurs when the alcohol enters the bloodstream and not the body.  Unless the straw is intravenous, the effects of the alcohol will be similar to those who do not use a straw.

Are there crafts I can make with straws?

Ask any primary or elementary school teacher this question, and you will be flooded with a variety of lesson plans on this very topic.  Science teachers also enjoy using straws for labs and projects with older students.

Final Thoughts

Sourcing Nova hopes you have taken something of value away from this piece on the humble straw.  We want to hear what you think.  Are you interested in sourcing straws or other products with us from China?  What are some things you think are important when choosing reusable straws?  Drop a comment below, and let us know what you think.