Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

American manufacturers are leading the way creating alternatives to plastic straws.

If you managed to sit through the seat-squirming 2015 viral video of researchers wrenching a plastic straw from in the nostril of a sea turtle, the impact of plastic straws on our environment is no doubt seared into your memory.

Unfortunately, 500 million of these straws are used in America every day, contributing to the 8 million tons of plastic that find their way into the ocean each year.

Though the growing islands of plastic in our oceans are comprised of a multitude of plastic evils, plastic straws are a particularly pernicious threat to marine life.

Because plastic straws are so lightweight, small and non-biodegradable, they are especially easy for marine animals to consume, as the sea turtle’s travails demonstrate, and become carcinogenic when broken down into smaller particles.  

As public awareness of these impacts grow, more and more companies are turning away from plastic straws in favor of alternative materials.

On Monday, Starbucks announced that it will to eliminate the 1 billion plastic straws used by the company annually by no longer offering single-use straws in its stores by 2020.

To replace the plastic straws in its more than 28,000 stores around the world, Starbucks has said that it will implement straws made of alternative materials such as paper, or straw-less lids, which have been likened to adult sippy-cups.

Starbucks is not alone it its commitment to reducing the plastic clogging our oceans.

Just this month, Seattle became the first city to ban plastic utensils and straws, and several other companies have also pledged to discontinue using plastic straws, such as Alaska Airlines and food service provider Bon Appetit Management Company.

Regrettably, there are still plenty of food and drink vendors who haven’t yet made the switch to alternative-material straws – we’re looking at you, Ronald McDonald.

Yet another sign of the tide turning on plastic straws is the “unprecedented” growth America’s only paper straw manufacturer, Aardvark Straws, observed this past year.

Rather than wait for your local restaurant to make the switch from plastic, you can help keep our oceans clean and support American manufacturing by using your own Made in America plastic straw alternative.

There are a variety of materials, shapes and sizes from which to choose, including paper, glass and stainless steel.

Indiana-made Aardvark’s flexible paper straws, based on an updated 1888 patent, are biodegradable and 100 percent compostable. With playful patterns for any theme and a variety of major online and storefront retailers, including Amazon and PartyCity, Aardvark is an excellent single-use straw.

Simply Straws and Hummingbird offer reusable glass straws. With no BPA or other toxic contaminates, these shatter-resistant glass straws offer a safe alternative to plastic straws while mimicking the visual experience of using one.  

Both Simply Straws and Hummingbird glass straws are dishwasher-safe and can be used with hot or cold drinks. However, Simply Straws’ straws, which are handmade in California, come with a lifetime guarantee for breaks.

If you’re looking for a straw that’s the perfect fit for your preferred drink, Mulled Mind’s stainless steel straws are handmade to order by the company’s owners in Massachusetts and completely customizable in width and length. Made of food-grade steel, Mulled Mind’s straws are durable and come with a lifetime guarantee.

While plastic straws remain a ubiquitous feature of restaurants and bars, it’s up to us to signal a need for change by eschewing the plastic straw for a reusable or compostable one. 

Come National Skip the Straw Day on Feb. 22, you’ll be prepared to celebrate with your own reusable or compostable straw, and hopefully joined by many others.

The sea turtles will certainly thank you.

PAPER – single-use straw; playful patterns for any theme; ideal for large groups

Aardvark – bendable; customizable patterns; plenty of online and storefront retailers, including Amazon and Party City

GLASS – reusable; shatter-resistant; dishwasher-safe; no BPA; no toxins; no lead

Simply Straws – lifetime guarantee for breaks; handmade in California

Hummingbird –made of strong borosilicate glass

  • $25 – Skinny Quad Set – four skinny straight glass straws with cleaning brush

STAINLESS STEEL – reusable; customizable width and length  

Mulled Mind – lifetime guarantee; handcrafted to order; made of 304 Stainless Steel, which is safely used for items in contact with food and the body and commonly used in cutlery and medical devices