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Why PLA Straws Aren’t the Answer: The Bio-degradable Straws Failure

In July 2021, single-use plastics are getting an EU wide ban. We know the programme: restaurants need to replace their utensils – and fast. But sometimes the simplest solution isn’t always the right one. PLA, otherwise known as ‘bio-degradable plastic straws’ (although that name is laughable) have been the cheapest and most reminiscent alternative to single-use plastics from the day restaurants started looking for alternatives – but they are not the answer. Here’s why.

Firstly, PLA is almost as bad as single-use plastics. These straws, rather than a saviour, are a work-around. What is meant by ‘biodegradable plastic’ is plastic that can break down naturally BUT with a huge flaw. It only biodegrades if kept in exactly the right industrial setting. Therefore, not only is it extra work (including further carbon emissions as the waste is transported) to make sure PLA gets to the right place for it to break down, but the energy required to contain and biodegrade the straws is just as harmful, with no steady reliance on clean energy in these industrial settings, meaning carbon emissions are further increased. If, on the other hand, these straws end up in the ocean through incorrect waste sorting (which, let’s admit, they often would), it causes an extreme amount of harm that is very comparable to single-use plastics. The best answer would be to find a better, more biodegradable option to promote sustainability. However, after the failure of paper to fill the market, with its floppy structure and taste ruining experience, it can be hard to find something reliable…

Paper straws headline failure

Speaking of promoting sustainability, a second reason you should be looking at better alternatives is the brand building opportunity you’re provided with. These days, an extremely high amount of young people are aware of and care about sustainable products, and being able to say you are the kind of place which looks after their customers through modern, eco-friendly products is something customers will take care off, especially if you want to remind your customers the natural origin of the ingredients in their food. The social movement behind an anti-plastic world is growing, and where vegan options weren’t essentials 20-30 years ago, now they are an appealing backbone of any good menu. Soon, it’ll be shameful to not use a natural alternative, especially when other restaurants are adding things like edible spoons, take-out plates made from fiber and more.

Furthermore, you want to establish this brand and stick with it. If you buy PLA now, in two years you may have to swap it out when the EU decides to ban these. Although a vote is not currently pending, the movement versus plastics is growing and the European Parliament already admits that ‘biodegradable plastics’ will not solve the issue. In addition to this, as demand grows for natural alternatives, inevitably, the price is going to go up – therefore it’s important to commit with a supplier early on and even seek a partnership to assure long-term cost effectiveness.

Finally, thinking again about the environmental impact, PLA is produced through corn, and although this is essentially eco-friendly, the pesticides and fertilizers responsible for growing these corn plants already do produce more emissions than the creation of a single-use plastic. Morally, using a PLA straw is just the wrong thing to do, as you’re directly contributing to climate change, even when you dispose of the straws properly.

The obvious question then is to ask what alternative you DO have, and that’s where we come in. Straw by Straw is a 100% natural, low-cost, chuck on the compost biodegradable, zero added taste, sourced from a waste product straw, making it by far the eco-friendliest on the market. Many people prefer us over paper due to the sturdy and zero added taste nature of our product, and we offer the easy opportunity to show off your restaurant’s awareness of the anti-plastic movement and a sustainable world without being obnoxious. It’s trendy and smooth and a great addition from a nightclub bar to a vegan café.


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