The final straw: 6 alternatives to sipping through plastic

Posted on 30 May 2018

There has been a recent drive to end our affiliation with plastic straws, which we wholeheartedly support. So we’ve found some alternatives.

The damage that straws and other single-use plastics have on our environment has been well documented and according to the Plastic Pollution Coallition, ‘Every day, more than 500 million plastic straws are used and discarded in the U.S. alone’ – and South Africa is no better. These straws often end up on beaches and in waterways and get ingested by animals such as birds, sea turtles and fish.

World Environment Day 2018 falls on the 5 June and this year’s theme is ‘Beat Plastic Pollution.’

The hashtag #beatplasticpollution can be found all over social media, sometimes accompanied by sorrowful images. Looking at these does nothing to solve the problem, however making changes to how we live our daily lives does.

Starting with the plastic straw.


1. Bamboo Straw

Bamboo straws are a natural alternative to conventional, single-use plastic straws and can be used over and over again when cared for properly. Bamboo is lightweight, durable, and of course biodegradable and bamboo is said to be the fastest growing plant on Earth (according to a Guinness World Record), making it easily replenishable.

The Bamboo Project is a South African company actively trying to make a difference to the problem of plastic pollution. Besides bamboo straws, The Bamboo Project produces biodegradable picnic ware.


2. Paper Straw

Striped paper straws look festive and although they don’t last forever, they are fun and biodegradable. Paper straws are also quite widely available. You can order a pack of striped ones from Merrypak, plain ones from EcoPack and get these cute heart covered ones from Bubble Tea., and


3. Glass Straw

Glass straws? Surely not. We can imagine sitting on a patio with friends on a summer’s day sipping cocktails as these straws clink gently on the side of the glasses and tinkle among the ice blocks. You can carry these with you in a hemp pouch as they are made from borosilicate glass, the most durable that’s commercially available. And Restraw assures us that they are both dishwasher-safe and child-friendly.


4. Metal Straw

Metal straws have their advantages, such as being dishwasher friendly and rather hardy. The metal also helps retain the drinks temperature and can be reused  in perpetuity. ForEVA Straws have sets of four that come with a cleaning brush and these are available in a number of retail outlets countrywide, as well as online at Faithful to Nature for R379 a set.


5. Ice Straw

The ice straw is a bit of a novelty, still, we can see the appeal on a sweltering day. Pop your ice straws out of the ice-try mould and drop them into your drink. You had better be thirsty, as we don’t advise that you leave your beverage on an outside table for ten minutes … or you may return to a watery drink sans straw.


6. No Straw

Orange juice. Image: Monika Grabkowska, Unsplash

If you don’t have any alternatives to the plastic straw at hand, you can just say, ‘no’. An even better approach will be to encourage establishments that sell plastic straws to invest in non-plastic straws, even if they charge a nominal fee to cover the extra cost.

Win: Win one of two sets of 10 bamboo straws and a travel set worth R1500.

Right now plastic straws are not illegal in South Africa, but according to the Globe and Mail, “Vancouver will become the first major Canadian city to ban plastic drinking straws” and Rafael Espinal, a New York city council member, announced his plan to ban these plastic pollutants from the Big Apple.

According to CNN, ‘Europe is proposing a ban on single-use plastic items such as cutlery, straws and cotton buds in a bid to clean up the oceans.’

It’s up all of us to put pressure on South Africa’s Minister on Environmental Affairs, Bomo Edna Molewa, to follow suit.

Action steps:

  • Take action on the Plastic Pollution Coalition website by filling out a pledge, as part of ‘The Last Straw’ campaign, that you will say no to plastic straws and there’s the additional option to commit to asking your favourite restaurant to support this by only serving straws on request.
  • Buy some bamboo, paper, metal or glass straws.
  • If you aren’t recycling yet, it’s never too
  • Getting rid of plastic straws is a good start, but plastic bags and other single-use plastics need to be banned too. Why not read a book or blog on how to remove plastic from your daily life? If others can, you can too.
  • If you live near the sea, join one of these beach cleanups taking place on or close to World Oceans Day (9 June):
  • 1. Durban: KZN Beach Cleanup – Virginia Beach Clean Up, Saturday 9 June 2018.
  • 2. Cape Town: Trash Bash – Sunset Beach (Milnerton), Saturday 9 June 2018. One of the regular beach cleanups hosted by the Two Oceans Aquarium.
  • 3. Port Elizabeth: John Dory’s (Baywest) and SANCOBB beach clean up, Cape Recife Nature Reserve, Sunday 3 June.
  • 4. East London: East London Beach Cleanups has yet to firm up details but is planning a beach clean up for the weekend of 8 and 9 June according to this post.
  • Start a petition for the ban of single use plastics in South Africa, or email the South African Minister on Environmental Affairs about the issue.

Images: supplied

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