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Are Biodegradable Straws Really Compostable? (Updated 2020)

People are finally realizing that single-use drinking straws are extremely bad for the environment. Not only do they usually end up in a landfill and pollute the air and soil, but they also find their way to the oceans and severely hurt marine life.

So, are biodegradable straws compostable? Keep reading to find out.

Full Disclosure: There are affiliate links below. If you purchase one of these items, Oath will receive a small commission for referring you. In the future, we hope to add all these zero waste alternatives to our catalog so you can shop in the least wasteful way possible.

It’s Time to Save the World

Reducing single-use plastic is extremely important. Plastic waste can take centuries to decompose, in the meantime causing a huge amount of pollution.

From the 1970s to the 1990s, the plastic waste output had more than tripled.

When the new millennium began, we had more plastic waste on our hands than we ever had in the previous four decades.

Today, there are about 300 million tons of plastic waste all around the world. The worst part? A significant chunk of that waste ends up in a landfill or the natural environment.

It’s time for a change. And a huge step forward is using biodegradable straws.

What is the Difference Between Biodegradable and Compostable?

Biodegradable and compostable are not the terms you should use interchangeably.

Biodegradable means that something can decompose, that is, break down to the smallest of atoms over some time, so that various microorganisms can consume it. However, biodegradation can take centuries depending on the composition.

On the other hand, compostable means that a material can fully break down in a specific amount of time, and under specific conditions until it leaves absolutely no visible, toxic residue.

However, if something is compostable, it doesn’t mean that you can compost it in your backyard. Many products can break down in home composts, but some need to go into a commercial compost.

Are Compostable Straws Really Biodegradable?

It all depends on the material they’re made of. Most compostable straws are made from polylactic acid plastic, that is, PLA plastic. Corn starch is usually used in the production of PLA plastic, and it requires special conditions for it to break down.

This means that you need to take a PLA straw to a commercial compost facility so that professionals can properly compost it.

On the other hand, you have paper straws, which are both biodegradable and compostable. You can either leave them in your backyard to break down or take them to any of the available compost facilities for a safe commercial compost.

If you’re ever unsure whether or not a product is truly compostable, you can check with the Biodegradable Products Institute. The BPI provides a catalog of certified compostable products that you can search through anytime.

Types of Biodegradable Straws

There are four main types of biodegradable drinking straws. Some of them can fully decompose back into the earth in a very short time, while others need a professional hand from a commercial compost facility. Here’s what they are.

PLA Straws

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As you well know, PLA straws are polylactic acid plastic straws. They’re made from plant starches, usually derived from corn.

These plastic straws are compostable, but they shouldn’t be put in home composts. They can decompose naturally, but only under specific conditions in a commercial compost facility.

A typical home compost does not produce enough heat for PLA to break down.

Nevertheless, they are some of the better straw alternatives.

Paper Straws

biodegradable straw paper straws

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Paper straws are fully degradable and compostable. It takes about 2-6 weeks for them to decompose back into the earth. This makes them quite eco-friendly, not to mention that they are incredibly cheaper than other straw alternatives.

However, paper straws are single-use straws, which many users don’t find appealing. They disintegrate very quickly, so you can’t use them for slowly sipping on a drink. It also goes without saying that you can’t use them for hot drinks, such as tea.

Bamboo Straws

biodegradable straw bamboo straws

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Usable for both cold and hot drinks, bamboo straws are some of the best eco straws, as they’re 100% natural. Made from bamboo stalks, they are naturally biodegradable and compostable. Not to mention, bamboo is very sustainable, grows fast, requires little water and no pesticides.

They are also reusable, but you need to clean and dry your bamboo straw very well after using it. Most come with cleaning brushes. Just use dish soap and warm water.

You can wash them about 10-20 times before you would need a new one. This is simply because splinters will start appearing inside the straw.

Speaking of which, your bamboo straw may taste like wood, which is the biggest disadvantage of these straws.

Hay Straws (Straw Straws)

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Hay straws, or straw straws, are made from wheat stems, which makes them 100% natural. This means that these drinking straws are both biodegradable and compostable.

Since they are made from all-natural gluten-free wheat, they have quite a lot of users that find them particularly appealing. Hay straws are completely chemical-free as well.

There are a few cons to using these straws though. They’re not very strong and can easily split and tear. They’re also very thin, making stirring drinks a bit of an impossible mission.

Nonetheless, they’re very green, which makes them perfect for a zero-waste lifestyle.

Types of Reusable Straws

There are several straw alternatives to plastic straws and the eco straws above that you can consider. They are completely reusable, which might make them better choices.

Bamboo straws are reusable as well, but for a limited number of uses, which is why they’re on the list above. You can use the following reusable straws as many times as you want, for as many years as you want, which makes them genuinely zero-waste.

Stainless Steel Straws

Oath's stainless steel straw silver 8-pack

Stainless steel straws are becoming quite popular these days among people looking to commit to a zero-waste lifestyle and help the planet.

These straws are extremely durable. They won’t bend or break while you’re stirring your drink, no matter how hot it is. They also won’t rust or damage in any other way, even if they get in contact with acidic drinks. What’s more, they’re not toxic and don’t contain BPA.

However, it isn’t smart to use these straws for hot drinks, as they too will get hot, given that they’re great conductors. You can get silicone tips, so you don’t burn or freeze your lips, depending on what you are drinking.

Stainless steel straws are also very easy to clean, as you can either put them in your dishwasher or wash them manually with the supplied cleaning brush.

One of the greatest concerns people have with these straws is the taste. However, there’s no metal taste if you buy from a quality brand. Some people say there is a slight metallic taste when a straw is brand new, but you can be sure that it fades over time.

Glass Straws

glass straws

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Glass straws are another eco-friendly straw alternative to plastic straws and biodegradable straws that you can reuse as many times as you want. They’re very easy to clean, and they’re not as unsuitable for hot drinks as their stainless-steel counterparts.

However, a glass straw can break very easily. It’s very delicate and smooth, so you can easily drop it.

Apart from being potentially dangerous, glass straws are not a very cost-effective solution. This, coupled with their vulnerability to breakage, is why we don’t recommend glass straws.

This is also why many users don’t find them very appealing. Some of them particularly don’t like that glass straws are so thin that boba from bubble tea gets easily stuck inside.

Silicon Straws

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Silicon straws are very flexible, but they won’t break, which makes them perfect for any drink, hot and cold. They’re perfectly safe to use, even for children.

You or your kids can even chew on them without ever damaging your teeth, which isn’t the case with glass and stainless-steel straws.

You can easily wash your silicon straws in a dishwasher, as they don’t release any particles under high temperatures as plastic straws do. Moreover, not only are they reusable, but they’re also recyclable.

The only downside to silicone straws may be the fact that they are more expensive than some straws, such as paper and bamboo straws. They cannot be easily recycled at the end of their life like glass and steel.

Which one is Best?

If you’re looking for an alternative to plastic straws, choosing any of the aforementioned types will help you lead a sustainable lifestyle that helps protect the environment. Say goodbye to traditional plastics and take a stand on plastic pollution.

Check out our guide on Top Zero Waste Products for more info.

Oath follows a zero-waste philosophy and can help you lead a zero-waste lifestyle. Our planet is calling for help, so let’s join forces to help it bloom again.

Don’t forget to leave a comment and let us know your favorite type of eco-straw.

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