Straws. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. Okay, maybe you could live without straws if you wanted to and you don’t actually need them to help you live independently, but we’re talking about a different alternative here. One you have to wash after every use. One that seems really inconvenient.

Is It Really That Easy To Use Reusable Straws?

 

I tried using reusable straws for 7 days straight and here are the results:

  • drank a total of 14 drinks
  • used a reusable straw 10 times
  • used a plastic straw (either unwittingly or because it came in the drink) 4 times + 1 extra straw was given.

That’s a 66.66% success rate, which I was sure could be increased if I could communicate that I didn’t want a straw better to the service staff.

I did find myself asking for no straws at drink stalls and restaurants after my experiment, which earned me quite a few weird looks and repeated questions of “are you sure you don’t need a straw”?

“No, Really, I Don’t Need A Straw”

Plastics have been the bane of Mother Earth’s existence ever since it was invented. It doesn’t decompose for a super long time, it takes up space, and it fills up landfills. We use plastics used everywhere for convenience’s sake — from leftover rendang in tupperwares to keeping your sandwich fresh using cling wrap, and when we buy any kind of sweet drinks in plastic bottles. But if plastics are used in almost every form of packaging, we have to ask:

Why Did Only Plastic Straws Get The Heat?

sea turtle in water
Image Credit: Jeremy Bishop | Unsplash

It’s been a slow build up over the years, but the sea turtles are going on strike. For far too many years, plastic straws and plastic waste have become part of a diet they do not want or need. If you only saw that viral video of a plastic straw stuck up a sea turtle’s nose, you’d think that plastic straws are the only part of the problem.

boy picking plastic in landfill
Image Credit: Hermes Rivera | Unsplash

But the truth is that plastic straws make up only part of the equation. According to the research done by the University of Exeter in 2017, plastic waste is estimated to have increased the mortality rate of sea turtles to more than 1,000 sea turtles a year. And that was a number estimated from a limited survey of 106 marine life experts, so we can imagine that the actual mortality rate could be even higher.

The First Step: Banning Straws in Penang and McDonalds

starbucks straws
Image Credit: Thirteen J | Unsplash

It’s a small step in the face of big ecological change, but in things are a-changing. And the changes happen fast.

  1. McDonald’s in Malaysia has stopped offering straws since Aug 1 2018, unless a customer specifically requested for one.
  2. Elsewhere for McDonald’s, in UK, Ireland and some European markets, plastic straws will be replaced by biodegradable paper straws.
  3. In Singapore, KFC started the trend by not giving out plastic straws and lids to their customers in store, and only providing plastic lids for takeaways.
  4. Starbucks is bucking the plastic straw by 2020 for plastic lids instead.

All these initiatives by big corporations help us as an individual ask what we can do to clean up the ocean. The first small step could be to use a reusable straw. You might think you don’t need a straw, but some people rely on straws to drink or even eat (which is why silicon straws could be a proper option).

And we all know we need straws to drink some bubble tea when the craving strikes. How else can we eat the pearls in them? Scoop them up?

Types of Reusable Straws You Can Buy

colourful plastic straws in drink
Image Credit: Tom Pumford | Unsplash

Now that single use plastic straws (like the ones pictured above) are a no go, what other alternatives should you be looking at using?

  1. Metal Straws

metal straw in drink from seastainable
Image Credit: Georgia Ho

A colleague says she uses metal straws because they enhance the taste of her iced cold coffee. We’re not sure if this is backed up by any research, but since the metal becomes cold to the touch, the metal straw probably helped with keeping her drink cold. So if you like feeling like your lips are icy cold, a metal straw is right up your alley.

You can get an 8 pack of metal straws for yourself and everyone around you for about RM24 from Lazada (up to 11% cashback) through the ShopBack App.

  1. Bamboo Straws

bamboo straws
Image Credit: Bamboo Straws Worldwide | Facebook

Made of the panda’s favourite plant, bamboo straws are 100% bio-degradable and all natural. Because they’re made out of bamboo.

Bamboo Straws Worldwide ships worldwide, plastic free. Each 5 pack of 15 cm bamboo straws cost SGD$12.

  1. Glass Straws

glass straw from seastainable
Image Credit: Georgia Ho

This might be easily breakable. (I actually broke mine after my 7 day experiment, by dropping it because I was carrying too many things and it slipped out of my grasp. If you haven’t already, you can watch me try not to use disposable straws above.)

I got mine from Seastainable Straws back when they still sold glass straws, but you can get really cheap glass straws from AliExpress (with up to 6% cashback) for US$0.29 per piece. They come in different colours too, so you can recreate that photo on top but with reusable glass straws.

  1. Silicon Straws

silicon straws
Image Credit: SOL Home & Living | Qoo10

Silicon straws might not be part of the trendy hype, but are bendable, easy to clean, and you can even boil them when you feel like killing those germs and using a brush just isn’t enough.

You could get a silicon straw from Qoo10 (up to 4.5% cashback) for RM20.90.

Other Types of Single Use Plastics You Can Cut Out Of Your Life

  1. Plastic Bags

plastic bag with apples
Image Credit: Pelle Martin | Unsplash

There are reusable bags you can fold up and carry practically in the back pocket of your jeans which you can bring with you to get your groceries. They function in the same way plastic bags do, except you’re not adding yet another plastic bag to the trash.

If you do use plastic bags that day — hey, it happens — maybe reuse the plastic bag a few times. Fold it into a neat triangle and keep it in your bag for when you need it, or use it to throw away your trash. It’s one of those tricks mum taught us, and it’s environmentally friendlier than using more plastic bags each time you go shopping.

  1. Plastic Containers

Plastic containers come with a lot of packed food and delivery. It’s easy to just bring your own container down when you’re buying packed food.

  1. Plastic Bottles

Wheat Straw Water Bottle Office Drinking Bottle
Image Credit: lovesqinans.my | Shopee

This also helps us live healthier lives. Instead of drinking one too many carbonated drinks, just carry your own water bottle, throw some citrusy fruits in your water, and drink more of that instead.

  1. Cling Wrap

Instead of using cling wrap, try getting a beeswax food wrap. There are several brands to choose from — the aptly named “Bee’s Wrap”, “Ariwraps” (who offers free shipping worldwide), and you can even make your own beeswax wraps on 5 Aug 2018 at The Hive – Bulk Foods in 92A, Lorong Maarof, Bangsar.

What’s in Plastic’s Future?

washing the reusable straw
Image Credit: Georgia Ho

If we don’t want sea turtles to suffer anymore, then the culprit falls on more than straws.

We’ve been making a concerted effort to move to using plastics that are easier to recycle and reusing our straws and cups so there will be less waste. Taking out single use straws is just the first phase of making our world a little more environmentally friendly.

But using a reusable straw is only just one step forward you can take. We’ll have to ask ourselves what else we can do, what changes we can enact in our lifestyles to effect a larger change.

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