The UK disposes of 8.5 billion plastic straws every year. This equates to around 130 straws per Brit, per year.
With big names such as McDonalds ditching plastic straws in favour of paper, it’s clear the plastic problem is starting to hit home. An increasing number of restaurants and bars are now cutting back on unnecessary plastic waste.
There are a few ways we can also start going plastic free at home. One of them is ditching plastic straws for reusable straws. We’ve tested some of the best alternatives for everyday use at home.
The Test – Saving the Planet Whilst Saving Money
My husband and I like to enjoy a nutritious protein smoothie for breakfast every now and then. We’ll use straws if there are some in the house. But the only time I’ve bought them is because my children have put them in the shopping trolley without my knowledge.
Both our children are under the age of five and they were fully on board to try out different straws. This also encouraged them to try some different drinks instead of their usual squash.
As a family, we awarded points using the following criteria:
Straws are a fun drinks accessory for adults and children alike. We felt that the way they looked was a viable box to tick, especially if they were for a party.
Whether it’s a thick smoothie or an everyday squash, children are the greatest critics when it comes to a good straw. They also know how to shorten the life of just about any item they come into contact with. So we put all round use to the ultimate child test.
None of the straws stated that they are dishwasher friendly. So, we (or I – my children had nothing to do with this part of the test unfortunately) had to rate them on washing by hand and using the provided cleaning brushes.
As children like to chew straws, this seemed like a good criteria to fulfil. We also took whether they could withstand regular washing into account.
Hot and Cold Drinks
As well as the ultimate smoothie test we wanted to make sure the straws could accommodate different temperatures. They need to withstand both summery cold drinks and winter warmers!
So, how did each of the reusable straws stand up to the test?
The Silicone Straw
£5.99 for 6 straws + 1 cleaning brush (packaged in plastic)
Personally I found these straws the least attractive. I also found them to be of a lower quality compared to the other straws. But the children absolutely loved them. The bright colours and soft texture definitely appealed to them.
They were great for all drinks but especially good for our thick smoothies. Despite my distaste for the way they looked, I must admit that they were the easiest to clean. Using the brush and also squeezing them in the washing up bowl ensured they were completely clean. Even after a raspberry-seed-infested smoothie.
The only problem we could see with longevity was the fact that the children like to chew. Even silicone would succumb to the effects of tiny teeth eventually.
Our Verdict: 3/5
The Bamboo Straw
£12.99 for 12 straws + 1 cleaning brush + cloth bag
These straws looked lovely. I could definitely picture them nestled in an ice cold piña colada on a summer’s afternoon.
Aesthetics aside, when we put them to use we found they weren’t actually that pleasant to drink from. They were the children’s least favourite and from what I can gather, it was the texture in their mouths that they didn’t like.
They were easy to clean with the brush as they had a wide diameter. You could see if there was any smoothie residue left inside – a problem I’ve had with straws in the past. From the adults point of view, these were the best for a smoothie by far. We can see them being robust over time too.
Our Verdict: 4/5
The Paper Straw
£4.99 for 50 straws (packaged in plastic)
We were all drawn to these as they had pretty gold stars and stripes on them. They were definitely a favourite with the children initially. But these straws often became soggy if the children took their time to finish their drink, which was quite frustrating.
I didn’t have too much of a problem using these straws. They struggled with my thick smoothie a bit, but other than that I found them to be a perfectly good alternative.
Our only turn off here was the fact that you do have to dispose of them after one use as they wouldn’t withstand washing. From trying other multi use straws it seemed such a waste (even though they’re recyclable if rinsed out).
We think they’re the perfect compromise for a party or BBQ. You can get them in all different colours and patterns to match a theme and it saves on post celebratory washing up. Win win.
Our Verdict: 2/5
The Stainless Steel Straw
£7.93 for 8 straws (2 lengths, some with a bend) + 2 cleaning brushes + cloth bag
These were a big hit in our house and they were my favourite aesthetically. Once all the straws had been tested these were the ones the children chose again and again.
We did encounter a few teeth bangs which wasn’t pleasant. But they could cope with most drinks and seemed like a robust alternative to plastic as they would most definitely stand the test of time.
The one big flaw was that they were extremely difficult to clean, even with the brush. Especially after a smoothie so they lose points there. For normal drinks these are perfect and they look smart enough for parties and celebrations too.
Our Verdict: 4/5
A Plastic-Free Future
This was a great way to take a look at all the alternatives to plastic straws. We thought that the major criteria would be their ease of use, especially with children. But it turns out that ease of cleaning is pretty important too. You need to be able to clean off thick drinks and cocktails but it is relative to your family and how you’ll be using them.
I plan to use the silicone straws for smoothies despite their low score and the stainless steel ones for other drinks. I’ll also consider getting some paper straws for birthday parties and summer BBQs rather than avoiding straws altogether.
Our experiment has shown that there are many fantastic alternatives to plastic straws. Which ones will adorn your smoothies, juices and cocktails?