STRAWS THAT DON’T SUCK! A marketer’s guide to eco-friendly straws
As a marketer looking for promotional merchandise you want a cheap, easily-customised product that is used often by everyone. A few things match this description – pens, drink bottles and tote bags come to mind. Straws are another that fit the bill. While their troubled, plastic past may cause you to shy away, eco-friendly straws are the way of the future.
Below are the most common plastic-free straws that are perfect for your summer promotion. We’ve included details from recyclability to mouthfeel so that you can find the ultimate eco-friendly straws for your customers and clients.
Stainless steel straws are reusable, durable and long lasting. Their size and shape mean that they’re very difficult to dent, bend and almost impossible to break. They’re also resistant to rust and corrosion. Stainless steel is food safe and dishwasher safe. While it does use more energy than plastic to produce, a stainless steel straw only needs to be used 150 times to counteract the energy used to produce it. That is well within its life span because they are so durable.
On the downside, it is reported that stainless steel can give drinks a metallic taste. And they can be “jabby.” While they can have smoothed and rounded tops and bottoms, their rigidity makes stainless steel straws prone to poking mouths. This can be fixed, however, with a silicone mouthpiece.
Stainless steel straws often come in their own canvas bag with a straight straw, bent straw and straw cleaner. The bag is printed and the straws themselves can be both printed and engraved with your logo or message. They travel easily within their pouches, with no risk of being bent or broken in a handbag or pocket. They are great eco-friendly straws for everyday use.
A straw made of glass may be your clients’ favourite straw ever. Primarily because of its satisfying weight and smooth mouthfeel. Being see-through, glass straws are easy and fun to clean. You can watch as you brush away any juice bits or smoothie residue. They’re also endlessly reusable and 100% recyclable.
These straws are commonly made from borosilicate glass, which is shatter, bacteria and temperature resistant. That means your sparkling soda and creamy coffee can slide up that tube without sizzling or freezing your fingers. It’s also tasteless – which, in this case, is a big plus!
However, while they are shatter resistant, glass straws are not unbreakable. Any sharp impact, a fall on to tiles for example, may break your glass straw. Luckily, the pieces will be big so clean up is a breeze. The breakage factor does put people off glass straws because it makes them tricky for travelling and not the easiest for children.
Printing is simple on a glass straw. The most common way would be a pad print. For longer lasting branding, you could also go with etching. A clean and classy option.
Bamboo is a popular product for branded merchandise. It’s a barely-processed, natural material that can be made into many things. With its fine grain and soft colour, bamboo is perfect for brands looking to make a statement with an eco-friendly product.
As a straw, bamboo is a great reusable, sustainable and biodegradable resource. They are sturdy, not temperature sensitive and gentle in your mouth. However, they have been known to have a woody taste. Bamboo straws are hand wash only and have a limited life span, because of their internal texture. Their porosity means that over time bacteria will build up inside the straw despite regular washes. The final downside to bamboo straws is that there are no bendy or bent options. This might impact those needing straws for accessibility.
Silicone straws are a family and marketing favourite. The plusses for whoever is using it are many, so we’ve listed them below.
- Soft on your mouth (great for kids)
- Dishwasher safe (great for adults)
- Made from food safe silicone
- Easily transported
- Can be cut to size
- Can be straight or bent
For marketers, silicone straws come in any colour you can think of. They are easily printed. They can even be debossed for more subtle but impactful branding. Thanks to their malleable construction, silicone straws also come with a range of carry options. Such as hard square and circular, keyring and carabiner clip cases. These all have solid branding spaces themselves.
Unfortunately, silicone straws are not recyclable and will one day end up in landfill. They must be washed often and well, too, because bacteria love silicone’s texture as much as you do. Silicone deteriorates over time and while its life span is longer than bamboo, it does have an end date.
Paper straws are the first we look to when sourcing a plastic straw alternative. When we want something single use for an event. They can be a great pop of colour in a glass and even greater when that colour matches your brand and décor. However, while they are biodegradable, there are a few things about paper straws that make people look elsewhere.
Firstly, we know how they feel when they get soggy…ew. Paper straws are not particularly sturdy and can collapse mid-suck if your beverage is on the thick side. While they do degrade, paper straws are still single use. The energy used for production (more than plastic straws) is not counteracted by a long, practical life. And finally, paper straws cost around 2.5c to produce and contribute to deforestation.
If you are still looking for a single use, biodegradable option for your event, paper is a fine eco-friendly, plastic alternative. They come in easy to brand recycled and recyclable card boxes and won’t end up in the ocean, up a turtle’s nose.
The modern straw’s namesake is a simple length of wheat or hay. And since the world’s been looking for more plastic-free options, wheat and hay growers have made the original straw available again. The straws we’re after are a biproduct of wheat and hay production and would otherwise be discarded. Putting it to use instead extends its life and minimises waste. The downsides are that their production cost is about the same as paper straws, and like bamboo straws, there are no bent options. That’s it.
So, what are its other virtues?
- They are a single use option but can be composted and will break down in 1-2 months.
- They are taste-free – so no grassy after tones.
- They are gluten free because the gluten in wheat is found in the seed and not the stem.
- They can be easily cut to size and come in a range of widths.
- They are made in Australia.
- They come in a recycled card box with your name on it.
If you’re interested in how they’re made, this is the process. The hay stems are hand selected for length and width. The outer layer is removed and the straw is sent for rinsing. Once foreign particles are washed away, the stems are soaked and rinsed again. They are then air dried and cut to a uniform length for packaging. They are sorted and inspected and then washed again. After they are dry, they are disinfected and finally packaged in that recycled, plastic-free packaging.
Straws are not always the first product you think of when you want to make an impression. There are a lot of options out there. But in a world where individuals are trying to make a change for the world, straws are great. One person using a reusable straw, like those above, stops 584 plastic straws per year from ending up in the ocean. Eco-friendly straws are great for people, great for the planet and great for marketing. For more environmentally conscious products, go to our online product catalogue. And have a read of our enviro bags blog.