You might have seen straws which look like plastic straws, but actually claim to be “biodegradable” or “compostable”. These straws are commonly known as “PLA Straws”. Manufactured from polylactic acid or polylactide, PLA is a “biodegradable” and bioactive thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from renewable resources, such as corn starch cassava roots, chips or starch, or sugarcane (Source: Wikipeadia).
Sounds great right? Not quite, and here is why...
There are multiple reasons why we at Ecotaste think that our paper straws are the only serious alternative to traditional plastic straws and also PLA Straws. Here's a few reasons, as explained by company director, Pete Turner.
Biodegradable vs Compostable
Everything is “Biodegradable”. If you were to leave a car exposed to the elements, it would eventually degrade to nothing, however it may take hundreds of years, and either way, smaller pieces of microplastics will ultimately end up in the ground or in the sea. The same goes for PLA Straws. Where as they might be “biodegradable”, they are only actually biodegradable under certain conditions. If the PLA straws are separated from normal waste at the point of use (in a restaurant or cafe for instance), they can indeed be “recycled” in what is known as a “industrial composting facility”. There are currently three methods of industrial composting, each providing a specific environment in which bacteria can break down the PLA. This process is also known as “closed loop recycling”. Now, if the PLA straws are not separated from normal waste and sent to an industrial composting facility, then they could take much longer to biodegrade. If the PLA ends up at the bottom of the sea, where temperatures are cool and there is no sunlight, it could end up taking much much longer to break down, equally the same could be said for PLA which ends up in landfill.
PLA vs Paper
Ecotaste Paper Straws are made from FSC certified paper, PVA Glue and depending on their colour, non-toxic inks, therefore, they obviously biodegrade with little effect to the environment. On the other hand, PLA straws simply do not biodegrade in the natural environment. The main reason Ecotaste was formed was down to it's founders noticing plastics, and specifically straws on beaches and in the sea. The effect thereof is devastating to wildlife and the environment, with straws being amongst the top ten items found on beaches around the world, and plastics constantly in the press and on social media for killing sea life.
Of course, paper straws do have their draw backs, and in the interest of being fair, we thought it might be worth pointing out that they are certainly more expensive than PLA, and generally the quality of paper drinking straws are often reported as being poor. This is why at Ecotaste we only use the most up-to-date manufacturing processes and quality materials to ensure that our paper drinking straws stand the test of time.