How paper straws are changing the world

Plastic straws are being touted as an environmentally friendly alternative to plastic straws. As a result, plastic straws are being banned in various areas of the United States, including the city of Seattle, several countries, and many major companies are beginning to use paper straws, including Starbucks, Disney, and McDonald's. The increased use of paper straws largely comes from an environmental movement to eliminate single use plastics due to the harm they pose to the environment. However, while eliminating the use of plastic straws may be good for the environment, it may not be good for small businesses, the disabled, or your pocketbook.

A Huge Increase in Demand for Paper Straws

The company that has benefited the most from the popularity of plastic straws is Aardvark Straws, the only maker of plastic straws in the US. Over the past year, Aardvark’s sales have increased by 5000%, leading to the company being unable to meet demand for their product. However, Aardvark Straws have recently been acquired by Hoffmaster Group, a disposable tableware company, that plans to increase Aardvark's manufacturing capacity so Aardvark Straws can meet the increased demand for paper straws. 

It probably goes without mentioning that the makers of plastic straws have been hurt economically by this shift to using paper straws. Now many companies that produce plastic straws are shifting their energy towards the production of straws made out of renewable materials. For example, plastic tableware manufacturer Plastico recently started selling straws made from paper and plant based substances. Plastic straw manufacturers also claim that plastic straws are not the problem.

Plastic straw manufacturers argue that the problem of plastic straws harming the environment comes from the fact that plastic straws are often not recycled. To address this problem Plastico has started to offer to take back waste from their customers. However, the main reason straws are not recycled in the US is because the recycling machines in the US are unable to recycle objects that are as small as plastic straws. So waste take back programs, such as the program started by the Plastico, may actually be ineffective at stopping plastic straws from ending up in the ocean and in landfills.

The Banning of Plastic Straws and its Consequences

Governmental officials from several countries, including the UK and countries in the European Union, have pondered completely banning plastic straws. However, the main problem with this idea is that straws made from renewable substances are around five to six times more expensive than plastic straws. This means that an all out ban on plastic straws would make straws somewhat harder to buy for small business owners. Also, a ban on plastic straws could hurt disabled populations that have difficulty drinking from cups without bendy straws. In spite of these issues, we appear to be transitions to a world full of paper straws.

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