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Plastic straws are banned in Australia, paper straws are yuck...So, what's the alternative?

07 May 2021
What are the alternatives to plastic straws

Have you seen the video of the turtle with a straw stuck in its nose? Yes, it is heartbreaking! Actually that video started the global sustainability movement #NoStrawChallenge, remember?

It was so moving that so many sustainability advocates and people seeking a zero-waste living say that it was precisely that video which encouraged them to seek a more sustainable way of life. Since then, more and more individuals, businesses and governments have tried to implement changes into our consuming choices, opting for more eco-friendly alternatives.

For example, the Australian government has recently announced that all single use plastics will be banned in the country by the year 2025, and where is the easiest place to start? With smaller items such as straws and cutlery.

Many states have already banned plastic straws completely and consumers have welcomed this change happily, however there are some occasions where people still feel the need of using straws. It is part of the experience of drinking cold drinks, would your favourite strawberry milkshake taste the same with or without a straw? Yes. Would the experience be the same? Probably not.

So, if plastic straws are banned, what are the alternatives?

Paper Straws:

As soon as people started refusing plastic straws, hospitality venues switched to paper ones. It is the cheapest alternative to plastic and some come with very funky designs which make an Instagram worthy pic however do we really need to say it? They are yuck!

Because of the nature of these straws, they don’t really hold liquid for too long, so unless you drink your iced latte in a split of a second, these straws will start getting soft and soggy which really affect the customer experience, some people are ok with them because of them being a more sustainable, but to be honest, no one really loves them… it’s more of a “it is what it is” feeling.

Avocado Straws:
Created by an innovative company in Mexico, these straws are made from avocado pits (agro-waste). The pits are collected from guacamole factories and diverted from landfill to create the straws. They are a sustainable alternative as they not only biodegrade in 240 days without the need of industrial composting facilities, but also help to eliminate the massive problem of organic waste.

Apart from all the sustainability aspects of these avocado straws, they can be used for hot or cold liquids and won’t get soggy, that means that you can take your time to actually enjoy iced lattes, milkshakes, iced teas, cocktails and more without the fear of swallowing paper.

Australia consumes tons of avocado from Mexico each year (fresh, frozen, and packed like guacamole) , so it only makes sense that we contribute to eliminate the amount of agro-waste generated by this industry.

The downside of the avocado straws is that they look quite similar to plastic which can be off-putting for some customers so make sure to communicate directly or with table/counter signs that these straws are actually sustainable.

Wheat Straws:
Another innovative product to use as an alternative to plastic straws, are wheat straws. They are made from wheat stalks which are naturally hollow, therefore there is not much of a transformation process to manufacture these, which helps to keep costs low.

At the beginning people were refusing these fearing they would contain gluten, but actually wheat stalks are gluten free, it’s only the grains which contain gluten. So, we can safely say that these straws are an acceptable alternative for celiac people.

The downside of these wheat straws is that they are quite narrow and fragile, it is easy for them to open or break, you need to be prepared to have plenty of replacements in hand so the price per unit might be a bit higher than expected.

Reusable Stainless Steel Straws:
Stainless steel straws are not intended to be single use. But various venues across Australia are using these straws for in house drinks. Of course, the initial investment for these reusable straws is high, but you could reuse them over and over again.

From the customer experience point of view, there are mixed views. Some customers really appreciate restaurants offering these reusable straws, but others are not fancy of sharing straws with other guests. Of course they know that the straws are clean, but straws have always been a personal item so the idea feels awkward for some.

On the other hand, it is important to consider that these are not a suitable option for on-the-go drinks unless you want to spend a fortune on straws. For dinning in, perfect! But for takeaway? You might need to find a different option.

And you? Which straws alternative are you using at your venue and how have they been working for you? Have we missed any straws alternatives? Let us know in the comments! We’d love to learn about new sustainable options to replace paper straws.
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