Can You Recycle Straws?
Are you wondering if you can recycle plastic straws and what a better alternative might be? Here is everything you need to know.
When sipping on a drink from your favorite restaurant, have you ever wondered where your straw will end up? It may seem harmless that you are using a plastic straw since oftentimes, plastic straws are commonly made from 100% recyclable material. However, the truth is that almost all these straws are single-use straws and cannot be easily recycled.
Plastic straws are made of polypropylene. Many recycling facilities cannot recycle that type of plastic and unfortunately, those that can often do not have equipment that is able to detect small objects like straws (AZOCleanTech.com). Straws are often too lightweight to be detected by most machines during the sorting process. Some people try to stockpile used straws and put them in a bigger package to send them to recycling centers, but they commonly are very sticky and dirty and will be sorted out and sent to landfills anyway.
Why Are Plastic Straws an Issue?
The National Park Service estimates that between 400 and 500 million straws are used and disposed of in the United States each day. Almost all of these straws will end up in landfills where they can take up to 20 years to decompose. Some of those straws will end up in ditches, forests, or waterways.
Plastic straws are the seventh most collected waste item on beaches worldwide (TRVST.World). While a straw is such a small object, the sheer number of straws being used and the fact that they are virtually impossible to recycle, adds up to a very big problem for our environment. Fortunately, there are some potential solutions to this issue.
Learn more about the impact of plastic straws on our environment in this blog post.
Plastic Straw Alternatives
Since the 1960s, 99% of the straws produced have been plastic straws (Quine Waste Solutions). This percentage has been dropping over the past few years, however, the overwhelming majority of straws made today are still made from plastic.
Are you wondering what a better alternative might be for the environment? Here is more information on a few of the alternatives on the market today.
Metal straws are a reusable plastic straw alternative that has become very popular in recent years. Stainless steel straws can be recycled at any point, but most times metal cannot be put in your recycling bin. It needs to be taken to a specialty metal recycling center to be disposed of. Because of this inconvenience, it is estimated that 17% of metal straws still end up in landfills (TemboPaper.com).
Another issue with metal straws is the carbon emissions and energy used to produce them. It has been determined that the amount of energy needed to manufacture one metal straw is equal to that of 90 plastic straws. Along with that, the carbon emissions from the creation of one metal straw being manufactured is equal to the emissions for 150 plastic straws being made. With that in mind, you would need to use a metal straw at least 150 times to make up for the carbon emission impact. (HSU Straw Analysis)
Glass straws are transparent, which is great for cleaning. You can make sure that there is no bacteria or mold growing in the straw. This makes glass straws a good option for their reusability, but are they recyclable?
One drawback of glass is that it shatters easily. To combat this, manufacturers make glass straws out of borosilicate. Borosilicate is not recyclable. The "glass" used for glass straws is different from the glass that makes bottles and jars and melts at a much higher temperature. Some glass straws are made with a plastic coating, so you may be buying a plastic straw still, without knowing it.
If you have used a paper straw before, odds are that you know some of the drawbacks. Some paper straws leave a funky flavor. Some are poorly made and get soggy or completely disintegrate. Many paper straws are not recyclable. Some are even made with a non-recyclable plastic lining.
Users need to check the packaging on their paper straws to determine if they are compostable or recyclable after use.
PHA straws are made from plant-based, compostable materials.
PHA straws are made from plant-based material, once the straws are properly composted, micro-organisms will begin eating away at them quickly and the straw will be completely broken down in only a few months. They break down quickly in compost bins, landfills, oceans, soil, or waterways, without harming the environment.
By trading in plastic straws for better alternatives, we can make a huge impact on the environment and leave it better than we found it for future generations!