Last updated on September 28th, 2019
Are plastic straws recyclable? This is a question that is eliciting a lot of debates in different sectors. If you want to know the answer, then here is our detailed answer.
Are Plastic Straws Recyclable? (A Guide to Eco-Friendly Straw Recycling)
Plastic straws are popular in beverage shops where they are used when drinking different liquids. But what happens to these plastic straws once you are done taking the drink? Are plastic straws recyclable?
Most people toss them in a trashcan, and that’s it. If there is no proper disposal of plastic straws, most of them end up in landfills. Since they are not bio-degradable, they become an environmental threat.
In the US, an estimated 29.2 million tons of plastic was disposed of in landfills in 2008.
When these plastic straws that end up in landfills and are not managed properly, they are carried out into our waterways, oceans, and seas and cause harm to marine life.
Also, if biodegradable plastics in the landfills decompose, they leak harmful pollutants such as phthalates and bisphenol A into the soil and the surrounding environment.
Therefore, people should not throw plastic straws in trashcans.
Plastic straws simply won’t compost or decompose. You need to find a better alternative.
Here, we will try and answer a few questions to determine if plastic straws are recyclable.
How Can We Dispose of Plastic Straws?
The first question that we need to answer is how to dispose of plastic straws. To answer this question, let’s look at some of the standard disposal methods for plastics:
Since plastics are derived from natural gas and petroleum, they have stored energy value, which is higher than most other materials in the waste stream. Using an incineration system, you can return the energy from the production of plastics wastes.
Research proves that a pound of plastic can produce as much energy as Wyoming coal and almost as much energy as the fuel oil.
However, incineration also causes adverse environmental and health effects. The incineration process releases hazardous substances to the atmosphere, which harms the environment.
For instance, when halogenated and PVC additives mix with plastic wastes, they release dioxins and polychlorinated-biphenyls into the atmosphere during incineration.
Decomposing the Biodegradable Plastics Straws
Some plastics straws are biodegradable. When using biodegradable plastics, you have the potential to solve various waste-management issues. That’s because they quickly decompose by the action of living organisms.
However, even though biodegradable plastics can quickly decompose, they also release metals into the environment in the process of decomposition. Here is the difference between biodegradable and nonbiodegradable material.
Disposing Compostable Plastic Straws
While it comes to compostable plastic straws, we should dispose of them in compost facility conditions. These straws should be disposed of in designated places.
However, most people may not have information about public composting depositories. Therefore, most end up throwing them in trash cans, which means they also end up in landfills and eventually into waterway and streams.
When compostable plastic straws find their way into the water bodies, they have a similar negative effect on marine life just like the other plastics.
These straws are only designed to compost in compost facility conditions. Here are some pros and cons of composting.
Recycling is of a sustainable way to dispose of plastics is to recycle them. The plastics that are recycled are usually given a second-life. However, plastic straws are not recyclable.
Even though recycling plastics is the best disposal method, plastic straws are too tiny, and it is difficult to collect and sort them. Also, they drop off in the recycling machines when they are being recycled, which make it difficult to recycle them. Also, consider the 3R’s of waste management.
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Why are Straws Not Recyclable?
Plastic straws are made of 5 plastic or polypropylene like most plastics which can be recycled. However, plastic straws are very tiny and small, and they fall off from the recycling machine when being recycled, which can damage the machine.
In essence, plastic straws are too lightweight and do not make through mechanical recycling sorter. They usually drop through sorting screens and mix with other materials.
Plastic straws are too small to separate, which in turn result in contamination of the recycling loads, and they get disposed of as garbage.
Therefore, in most cases, these straws still end up in the landfills. If they are not adequately managed, they become an environmental threat.
However, some waste management services and independent centers have derived creative ways to reuse plastic straws. Plastic straws can be reused to create home décor and in other beautification projects.
Check with the local management services in your region to see if they collect recyclable straws.
If they do, place the straws in another plastic container, seal it, and take it to the recycling bin.
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What Happens When Plastic Straws are Not Recycled?
If the plastic straws are not recycled, most of it ends up in landfills. A report by 4Ocean indicates that plastic straws are not biodegradable and can take over 200 years to decompose. Then, they find their way to the ocean.
Plastic wastes that have accumulated over the years result in plastic pollution. They then form the most substantial part of the ocean plastic wastes, which in turn pose a threat to marine life. It’s estimated that as many as 30% of turtles and 70% of seabirds have ingested some plastic that ended up in the ocean.
In the US, it is estimated that people use around 500 million straws every day. A recent study indicates that at least 8.3 million plastic straws pollute the beaches around the world.
Every year, there is an estimated 8 million tons of plastic that end up in the ocean and straws form at least 0.025% of that waste.
This menace of the plastic straws has pushed every sector to start environmental campaigns to end its use or find other substitutes. Since plastic straws are items we can do without, eliminating them is easy and doesn’t require any drastic change in behavior.
However, there are some groups of people with health problems like the disabled or those with autism that may still require using straws.
In that case, they can opt to go green by adopting other kinds of straws.
What Are Some Alternatives to Plastic Straws?
People who have had a stroke, autism, MS, or any other life-changing physical issue may need to use a straw when taking their drinks.
If you need to use a straw or you are required to do so medically, you opt for the non-plastic straw options. This will help reduce plastic pollution and save our planet.
Plastic Straws Alternatives
Here are some of the plastic straws alternatives to consider:
Paper straws are eco-friendly alternatives to plastic straws. Since they are made from renewable resources, paper straws are compostable and biodegradable after 45-90 days.
Paper straws are durable enough and can last up to two to three hours in cold drinks after which they may bend. They are made in such a way that they do not quickly disintegrate or get soggy.
You can use these straws in different ways, including when drinking iced coffee, smoothies, cake pops, and cocktail drinks. Consider buying this set of 200 biodegradable paper straws for only $6.99.
These straws are available in different lengths, diameters, and colors, and some can bend while others can’t. Most of them are made up of the borosilicate glass, which is equivalent to pyrex.
Glass straws are great for smoothies, milkshakes and denser drinkable items. Consider buying these Hiware reusable glass straws.
The best part is these can last and be cleaned for a very long time. They usually help keep your drink cold and are great to have around for parties.
Stainless Steel Straws
Stainless steel straws are reusable just like the glass straws. However, the stainless straws are said to release toxic chemicals when you expose it to heat.
Therefore, it is good to be cautious when selecting the best plastic straw alternative.
Bamboo straws which are made of bamboo are perfect alternatives to plastic straws. These straws are organically made during the harvesting of bamboos.
Bamboos grow fast and efficiently and with careful regulation in the harvesting process, they can be an ideal plastic straw alternative. These are generally a little more expensive, but they last a lot longer than paper straws. Check out these bamboo straws for your house.
Papaya Leaf Stems
The stem of the Papaya leaf can be suitable for drinking beverages such as juices and cocktails. This option favors those living in the areas where papayas grow.
You only need to pluck a leaf from the tree, then cut it away from the stem and then rinse the area where the stem was cut to avoid the taste of the sap.
Another great alternative to plastic straws can be the edible straw. There are a wide range of flavored edible straws as well as edible unflavored straws that have been invented by companies like Loliware. This can be a great solution to the growing plastic straw menace.
Overall, there are plenty of good alternatives for straws that you can consider. Start living more sustainably by using biodegradable paper, bamboo, edible or glass straws. It’s small things like these that make a huge difference.
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How Can You Reduce Plastic Straws Waste?
If you can take a drink comfortably even without using a straw, then you should do so. Avoid putting a lid on a cup that will require you to use a straw for drinking. Instead, take off the cap and drink directly from the container.
You can also help prevent plastic straws wastes by refusing plastic straws offered to you in restaurants unless you are provided straws of not made of plastic and not the plastic ones.
If you don’t use the straw, then they will not have to be thrown away, and therefore, it will not produce unnecessary waste. If at all you need to use a straw, then you can request for a compostable paper straw instead.
When traveling with a drink, put on a lid so that the juice doesn’t spill over and take it later when you arrive at your destination. If you cannot wait until then, make a stop-over and drink it first and then proceed.
Another way that can help reduce the plastic straws waste menace is by using reusable straws. You can search and buy reusable straws which are made of stainless steel, bamboo, or glass. You can carry your reusable straws when traveling or going for a drink in a restaurant or cafes. That way, you’ll enjoy your drink without using a plastic straw.
Also, talking with your family and friends about limiting their use of plastic straws can go a long way. Be open to discussions with people any time you get a chance and discuss with them the adverse environmental effects of throwing away plastic straws.
It’s pretty obvious that plastic straws are not sustainable in our environment.
Let them know what they can do to prevent using plastic straws and request them to spread awareness to other people.
Conclusion on Are Plastic Straws Recyclable
I believe now you have an answer to the question, “are plastic straws recyclable? Recycling plastic straws is a complicated process and most waste management services are not doing it. Therefore, most of the straws end up in landfills, which make it an environmental threat.
Though they are being reused to create decorative items, they are still doing more harm than good.
Therefore, we can opt for green living by embracing some of the numerous excellent alternatives to plastic straws to help us curb the menace. Also, we can choose to take drinks without straws unless one has a medical condition that forces them to.
Do you think that plastic straws should be banned? Let us know in the comments below.
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