Are Paper Straws Really Better than Plastic Straws?


Paper versus Compostable Plastic – What’s the Deal

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch started the movement to stop using single-use plastics. But where straws are concerned, some people still want them for iced and blended drinks – and some people still need them. Children, the elderly, and people with temporary or permanent mobility injuries need straws.

In the rush to replace to conventional petroleum-based plastic straws, the alternatives aren’t always much better.

Are they really compostable?

There are quite a few straws calling themselves compostable, but how do they stack up?

Old School Polypropylene Straws (PP): Polypropylene or “PP” straws are made from non-renewable petroleum. PP straws do not biodegrade: they break down over 200 to 400 years into microplastics but they cannot be converted by microorganisms or natural processes into compounds that living organisms can use for growth. 

Compostable Polylactic Acid Straws (PLA): Polylactic Acid or “PLA” straws are made from sugars derived from corn, sugar beets, or potatoes. PLA straws need the high heat and enhanced bacterial activity of commercial composting facilities to actual break down into their organic components: they won’t break down in your backyard composter, can’t be put in most municipal “green bin” programs and last almost as long as plastic straws.

Paper Straws: Paper straws are made from cellulose derived from trees. They will biodegrade, usually over a period of 6-12 months, eventually decomposing into basic biochemical compounds that can be used by other organisms. Key things to consider in choosing among paper straws include:

- What kind of glues do they contain: Waterhorse Paper Straws use FDA-approved food grade glues. Many imported straws do not.

- What kind of papers do they use: Not all papers are created equally. Waterhorse Paper Straws uses paper that has been certified as sustainably sources.

- How far away were they made: The closer to home a product is made, the lower it’s ecological footprint is likely to be. Waterhorse Paper Straws are made in Burnaby, BC, from Canadian paper products.