The paper straws vs. plastic straws debate has been on for a few years now. Amid growing concerns for the environment, many people have condemned the use of plastic straws. However, it is also uncertain whether paper straws are a viable replacement.

In this article, we will discuss the issue of paper straws vs. plastic straws. By reading it, you can determine which one might be better and why.

paper straw vs plastic straw

1. Paper straws vs plastic straws in environmental factors

The pros and cons of paper straws

They are Compostable.

Paper straws consist of compostable material. This means they are designed to decompose at the end of their useful life.

Furthermore, the paper used takes a few weeks to completely break down, unlike plastic that might take up to 200+ years to do the same.

Safer for wildlife

Paper straws are a safer straw alternative for wildlife. They quickly soften in liquids and decompose faster. This makes them less likely to be consumed by animals. Even if they eat paper straw, the effects are not as detrimental.

Resource intensive

Paper straws reportedly cost more to make than other materials. It reportedly emits more greenhouse gases and uses over four times the energy. So, it may not be that sustainable after all.

The pros and cons of plastic straws

Less resource-intensive

One of the key benefits of the plastic straw is the low cost of production compared to paper straws. They use up less energy, less water, among others. Reportedly, plastic straws cost about $0.005 to make in the US, unlike paper straws that take up to $0.025.

Non-biodegradable

Plastic straws are made of non-biodegradable material. They take up to 200 to thousands of years to decompose. And they are often carelessly littered. This leaves lots of dangerous material on the earth, which pollutes the land and waters.

They endanger animals

Since plastic straws do not easily break down, they often get eaten by water animals, birds, etc. In most cases, they end up suffocating the animals, causing their death.  

2. Paper straws vs plastic straws in manufacturing process

Making paper straws

Paper straws are relatively easy to produce since many of their components are natural. So, making high-quality straws, like 3 ply paper straws, can be done very quickly.

However, paper straws require more natural resources like water and wood, which may not be very sustainable in the long run.

Making plastic straws

Plastic straws are relatively cheaper to produce because most of the components are chemical.

Yet, some of these components can be detrimental to the earth, such as the intense use of fossil fuels and oil.

Furthermore, these chemicals involved often become waste that in turn affects the soil and water bodies.

3. Paper straws vs plastic straws in user experience

The advantages and disadvantages of paper straws

Customers nowadays like to participate in conserving the environment and often prefer to use paper straws. Attractiveness is also one of the benefits of paper straws, especially to casual drinkers.

However, many customers frown on paper straws, especially when consuming hot drinks. Paper straws tend to get soggy after a while. Some people even confess to sipping parts of the paper, especially if the paper material used is not high grade. In addition, some 3 ply paper straw can’t prick the seal. 

The cons of paper straws

The advantages and disadvantages of plastic straws

A key benefit of plastic straws is that they stay intact during the consumption process. And, they work for both hot and cold beverages. This makes a good case for why plastic straws should not be banned.

However, some scientists claim that the chemicals in plastic straws often get into the drinks, especially the hot ones.

So, regardless of the environmental impact, plastic straws seem to provide a better consumption experience.

4. Paper straws vs plastic straws in price

Paper straws

One of the biggest problems with paper straws is the higher pricing. This is mainly due to their material. As a result, many businesses cannot afford them. They thus choose to keep using other cheaper alternatives like plastic.

Plastic straws

Plastic straws cost fewer resources and less money to make. Because of that, they are cheaper to purchase. It is thus easier for most businesses to acquire them without hurting their bottom line.

Therefore, in paper straws vs plastic straws, costs are greater for paper products.

5. 11 FAQs about paper straws and plastic straws

1. Why are paper straws bad?

Paper straws are generally not as durable as other alternatives, yet they are more expensive. Some quickly become soggy and break down when placed in drinks for a long time. This is why many businesses prefer not to use them.

2. Are plastic straws recyclable?

Plastic straws are made of “polypropylene,” which technically can be recycled. However, as the straws themselves are small and thin, they hardly get recycled since they easily go through the machines’ cracks. As a result, most recycling plants reject them.

3. Are paper straws recyclable?

It depends. Paper itself can be recycled, but it is not a guarantee for paper straws. Some of these straws are lined with plastic to keep them intact. Others are too thick to be compacted.

Also, in most cases, recyclers do not accept food-contaminated paper straws. So, paper straws are mostly only recyclable if they are thin, pure paper, and only used in water.

4. Are paper straws bad for your health?

According to scientists, some elements in paper straws will do harm to people’s health like dyes, whitener, etc. When dipped in liquid for a long time, some of these elements seep into the drink and are ingested. So many large-scale paper straw factories will set a complete and strict testing standard for these elements.

5. Are paper straws worse than plastic?

Paper straws vs plastic straws present several advantages and disadvantages on both sides. Whereas paper straws seem to have less impact on the environment than plastic, they are resource-intensive.

Some of the pros of plastic straws include low price and durability. Yet, they are non-biodegradable.

So, neither of the two seems to be a lasting solution, which somewhat suggests why plastic straws should not be banned yet.

6. What is the best alternative to plastic straws?

There are several alternatives to plastic straws. Some of them include bamboo straws, wooden straws, glass straws, metal straws, etc. These are reusable, and most of them made of natural materials.

Glass metal and bamboo straws

Therefore, they do not contribute much to environmental destruction and are more sustainable.

7. Are paper or metal straws better?

Environmentally, metal straws are better if you use the proper grade of stainless steel. Whereas they take up more resources to make, you can use them for a very long time. Food-grade stainless steel straws also do not seep chemicals into your drinks.

On the other hand, paper straws are not reusable and often not recyclable in some cases, yet more expensive.

8. How long do paper straws last?

Paper straws reportedly last between 2 to 4 hours before they start to soften and disintegrate. However, this depends on other factors such as the paper grade used to make it, whether it is plastic coated, the drink’s temperature, etc.

9. Why are paper straws more expensive?

Paper straws cost over 10 times more to make than plastic straws, mainly because of the material involved. As a result, the final price increases tremendously.

Processing paper straws also generally consumes more resources. It might end up being more expensive for businesses because customers may often request more straws since they are not durable.

10. Are paper straws worse for the environment?

Paper straws are not as bad for the environment as other alternatives like plastic straws. Whereas they take up more resources to produce, they are biodegradable.

A paper straw would need a couple of weeks to decompose, while a plastic straw would take over 200 years. Also, paper straws are not as harmful to wild creatures as plastic straws.

11. Why are plastic straws bad?

Plastic straws are considered bad mainly because of their impact on the land, oceans, and marine wildlife. Many countries have initiated partial bans on plastic straws because they contribute tons of non-biodegradable waste in landfills. Much of it even finds its way to oceans and kills many water animals.

Conclusion

The paper straws vs plastic straws arguments present several pros and cons to the environment and the economy. While many countries have decided to start banning plastic straws, they may not be any worse than paper straws. Perhaps further research is needed on the issue.

If you want to purchase high-grade and high-quality paper straws, try to find a large-scale paper straws factory. They have a standard production process and adopt material and additives in accordance with the regulations. Generally, they have product certificates and test reports to ensure that the paper straws meet food safety standards.

We also cooperate with several large Chinese paper straw factories. You can also contact us to help you source or customize paper straws.