Compostable Straws: What You Need to Know Before You Buy

Straws are the perfect way to sip your beverage. But unfortunately, they also contribute massively to the planet’s plastic waste problem.

Companies, restaurants, and cities took action and banned them altogether, replacing them with compostable versions. Do straws containing paper or other organic materials break down on the earth? Not if they’re not certified as 100% biodegradable. Browse our guide to learn more about compostable drinking straws.

Compostable Straw Alternative to Plastic Straws

Compostable straws are eco-friendly alternatives to traditional plastic straws, which could be banned in more locations across the United States. Like single-use plastic utensils, compostable straws can be made from many materials and are widely available at restaurants. 

Unlike compostable straws, single-use plastic straws do not degrade in landfills or oceans. There isn’t a compostable plastic straw. Unfortunately, plastic straws take 200 years or more to break down under the right conditions.

If you plan on using these at home (and can be sure that you don’t throw them away), look for biodegradable straws that begin to break down in your backyard after just a few weeks!

What Drinking Straw Materials are 100% Compostable?

Compostable straws are made from biodegradable materials. These materials decompose quickly in a compost pile. As a result, compostable drinking straws are better for the environment and safer to use.

Here are some of the most common compostable drinking straw materials:

  • Sugarcane
  • Paper (without plastic filler or coating)
  • PHA (canola oil)
  • Bamboo

Each of these materials is compostable, but some may serve your needs better than others.

Certified Home Compostable

One way you can tell if your drinking straw is 100% compostable is by checking to see whether it has been certified by an independent entity. For example, sugarcane straws have been certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) as home compostable. Certified straws break down in home compost piles (the same ones you use for food scraps) within 360 days. If your straw does not have this certification, you should assume it is only biodegradable.

Some straws require industrial processing for composting, so not all straws are suitable for home composting. Look for a BPI logo on the packaging to ensure that your straw is certified as home compostable, 

Can I Put A Straw In My Compost Bin?

Yes, you can throw your straw into the compost bin, but only if your straw contains 100% compostable material. Microorganisms and bacteria exist on organic matter, and as it breaks down, it releases carbon dioxide and water. This process is called composting. The resulting material is a soil amendment that you can add to gardens and fields.

When plastic materials end up in the compost bin, they are still untouched by bacteria and will not break down. Unfortunately, this means that straws containing plastic need to be thrown out instead of put into a compost bin.

Sugarcane straws belong in the compost bin. Composting breaks down the materials into a soil-like substance, great for your garden and plants.

Cut the compostable straw into smaller pieces before placing it in your compost bin. Cutting the straw makes it easier for the composting process. 

This process happens naturally in your garden, but you can speed it up by turning the compost pile regularly. Turn the pile over with a shovel a few times per week. Mixing the materials makes airflow better and gives microorganisms better access.

What Are Compostable Straws Made Of?

Compostable straws are made of materials that break down into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass. Let’s review each material and see which compostable straws stand out.

Paper

Paper straws are typically made from cellulose. Cellulose is a plant fiber that breaks down easily and decomposes quickly. Paper straws are a one-time-use product. Therefore, paper straws may not be the most durable alternative to plastic straws for restaurants.

PHA

Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are biodegradable polyesters derived from the hydroxycarboxylic acids in canola oil. Medicine, construction materials, and food preparation use these polyesters.

Bamboo

Bamboo straws are made from a plant that’s sustainable and biodegradable. While they are reusable, they can be challenging to clean. 

In addition, the taste of wood may be noticeable when you drink through a bamboo straw. Bamboo straws are sturdy when used with cold drinks. However, hot liquids will ruin them.

Sugarcane

Sugarcane straws are made from the plant fibers of perennial grasses (Saccharum). They are plant-based straws that are biodegradable and compostable. (See our catalog to learn a lot more)

Sugarcane is the world’s most abundant crop. It yielded 1.9 billion tons worldwide in 2018 alone. 

Sugarcane is also a renewable source of plant fibers. It grows again after being harvested, making it environmentally friendly and sustainable as an agricultural product.

Sugarcane straws are made of bagasse—the fibrous material that remains after extracted sugarcane juice. Using sugarcane bagasse gives the final product a neutral taste and feel. Users don’t notice a difference when using them over plastic straws.

The binder used in the manufacturing process is made of food-grade organic acids and earthy minerals. This organic binder replaces the more conventional polylactic acid (PLA) found in many other PLA straws.

They’re also non-toxic and can be used for both hot and cold drinks. In addition, sugarcane straws are certified 100% biodegradable and PLA-free straws, which means they won’t harm the environment when you dispose of them.

These straws are eco-friendly and reusable, so you can save money on buying new ones all the time. Plus, they’re better for your health since they don’t contain harmful chemicals such as BPA or phthalates.

Are Paper Straws Compostable?

Some paper straws are not compostable. Compostable paper straws need to be 100% paper or a combination of paper and beeswax. Paper is biodegradable if it is natural without any additives.

Some brands of paper straws contain plastic, which breaks into smaller pieces rather than degrading entirely back into the earth. However, plastic-containing paper straws are not compostable.  

Conclusion

Compostable straws are an excellent choice for anyone looking to reduce their plastic use. Sugarcane straws are a great option because they are biodegradable drinking straws. In addition, they are compostable and made from renewable resources. Shop for our compostable drinking straws now!

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