As caffeine-running university students, we’ve all had the experience where we pick up our morning iced coffee, excited that it will get us through the day—that’s until we receive the paper straw. Following Canada’s ban on single-use plastics, businesses have transitioned to using paper straws as a way to help the environment, specifically aiding crustaceans in the ocean, as they suffer some of the biggest impacts. Even though the fight to stop pollution in our oceans is an ongoing battle, researchers have discovered that the use of paper straws is a small but impactful decision—once they reach the ocean, the straws will eventually dissolve, causing no harm to any animal.
Yay! We fixed the problem! Go society! Hold on everyone, not so fast…
Even though it is great that we are helping the ocean and animals within it to survive, has anyone actually further researched the impacts of paper straws? I mean, besides the well-known fact that it makes our iced drinks frustrating to consume, having the soggy straw melt in our drink before we even hit the halfway mark of our beverage.
A soggy drinking experience isn’t the only downside to using paper straws. According to a BBC article, researchers from the University of Antwerp in Belgium found that there are “forever chemicals” within paper straws: chemicals that enter our bodies when the straw is used to consume cold drinks.
Forever chemicals are compounds that contain polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are harmful toxins if consumed. These chemicals are found to stay in the environment for years. PFAS can even pollute water supplies, resulting in health complications for consumers. Not only do paper straws pose harmful effects from PFAS, but bamboo straws do too—two of the most popular eco-friendly straw alternatives to plastic. This has alarmed people worldwide, as most of us consume our drinks using these types of straws to save the environment. Instead, we may be causing more harm to ourselves.
The well-known fact that people hate paper straws is that they become soft before we have fully consumed our beverage. This causes frustration as many may feel hurried to finish their drink. This causes you to become parched quickly as you must beat the imaginary paper straw clock to enjoy your drink.
Overall, this article does not support the comeback of plastic straws. I do realize the harm they cause to the environment and how they harm oceanic wildlife. However, paper or bamboo straws also cause harmful chemicals that enter our bodies and water systems.
So, what is a possible solution? We can either avoid having to use a straw by using sippy cup lids, which are provided in several fast-food chains, or we can turn to reusable metal straws, which now come in different colours, sizes, and shapes. Even though producing metal straws generates more carbon emissions than plastic straws, their lifetime is significantly increased. One study found that within five years, only three per cent of metal straws were disposed of—whereas plastic straws had a 100 per cent disposal rate. This can result in plastic straw production being shut down as a whole, which not only benefits our bodies but also our environment.