Gadgets, Musings

The Last Straw?

For many people using a straw is a novelty. Something that livens up a drink in a pub, makes a cocktail more fun, allows you to drink a thick milkshake without getting a moustache. Anyone remember being a kid and purposefully trying to get a shake/Ribena moustache? No. Maybe that’s another thing from my weird childhood. Anyway a straw is primarily an accessory to glam up your beverage.

For some though, including myself, a straw is a necessity. Some people, for whatever reason cannot drink without the aid of a straw.

Many moons ago I too could (just about) drink a tea without a straw. The progression of SMA has meant that since quite a young age I have struggled to hold a cup. To lift it that is.

Sometimes, now, I can’t even lift a cup at all, if it’s not the right cup, or not the right day.

It can be a bit like having a workout for me. Having a drink. Imagine holding something you can only just lift. With two hands. I don’t know… a small child. That to me is the weight equivalent to my mug of tea.

Once holding this cup there is no chance that I would be able to lift it to the height of my mouth, tilt it at the correct angle, and get any in my mouth. So instead I use some kind of human arm (my arms) balancing system to pivot the cup up just about high enough to suck on a straw.

That’s if the cup is light enough, the table high enough, and me powerful enough.

If not I need assistance to position the cup in my hands, or even hold it in order for me to suck on the straw.

This all works as well as it currently can.

Here’s the issue. Straws as we know them are an environmental hazard. Bars, restaurants and cafes are giving them away as if they have an ever replenishing straw mountain out back. We are automatically served them in soft drinks, shakes, frappes, smoothies, juices. One cocktail can contain a minimum of two straws. One straight, one bent, seems to be the ‘thing’.

These straws may well be ever replenishing, but they certainly aren’t magical enough to just disappear. They need to go somewhere…..

‘500 million straws are used in the US alone every day. Which could fill over 127 school buses each day’

Plastic straws are the most washed up item on beaches, along with cotton wool tips.

We don’t want a straw landslide in twenty years time.

Plastic straws are too small to efficiently recycle.

It’s obvious something has to be done. But what?

You may have heard about #LastStraw, all the celebs have been getting involved.

There are petitions all over the internet trying to get bars to stop giving out plastic straws or to ban them all together.

The issue is, some of us can’t function without straws. There doesn’t need to be plastic, but there does need to be straws.

I have a confession to make.

I carry plastic straws and cutlery (this is a whole different debate) around in my handbag at all times. In case there are none available or I need to drink from a bottle on the go. Without these I am unable to eat and drink independently.

Imagine having someone try to tip fluid into your mouth, guessing how much to pour and how much you can handle. They go a little too quick, you dribble a bit. Not enough, you’re a bit like a fish. It’s a bit hot, ouch. Imagine all this out in public too, when you’re with friends, or at a meeting, a show, a fancy restaurant. You get the picture. Straws are an important, crucial part of my daily life.

I am fully aware that the world is becoming filled with plastic and I agree something needs to be done. Maybe a different use of materials. I don’t know.

There are other straws out there. Plastic isn’t the only way.

I’ve tried those paper straws before, have you? Ive mostly had them out in cute little cafes. They come in all sorts of colours and patterns, can be very pretty, and are quite fashionable, but also extremely useless. Especially if you use them for hot drinks. They go all floppy and mushy. I’ve also been served them in cocktails, where it’s gone soft before I get to the end. (Perfect for a papier mache project). I must admit they look the part, and are a step up from plastic, environmentally, I think, but what about forestation? I don’t know.

I was gifted some silicone straws for Christmas as I had mentioned I’d seen some around. I’ve used them at home a few times, they come with a pipe cleaner type gadget and can go in the dishwasher.

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Silicone straws with cleaner on the left. It has small white bristles

The ones I have (I’m unsure of the brand/manufacturer as they were a gift) seem very wide, quite a lot different in size to your common plastic straw. Wobbly, bouncy, not very sturdy and a little top heavy. It’s quite a weird feeling to suck on, maybe that’s why at first I started to dribble a little. Sorry TMI! I am getting the hang of it, but it’s plastic for me in public at the moment!

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A blue ‘typical’ plastic straw on the left of wide silicone straws
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Looking down on my cup of tea comparing straw sizes. Orange is silicone. Blue is plastic

Although relatively easy to clean with the gadget provided, I’m still not sure I’d want to share them with a bar full of people.

The silicone does have a slight washing up liquid taste for the first use after cleaning.

Good points are that they do have a bend in them unlike paper straws. They are good for the environment as far as I’m aware, although maybe not as hygienic. And the larger width would work well for soup. Yes I drink soup with a straw.

There are glass straws available that are quite pricey but look rather elegant. I’m not sure I’d want to drink through glass, would you?

To see what others thought, how they perceived the straw, and how they imagine we could solve this problem and possible straw landslide, I ran two polls on Twitter.

Now I’m a little restricted here by the limits of Twitter, I could only have 4 voting options, and everyone is an individual with individual thoughts and needs.

Also this was just a bit of fun really, I’m just curious, I’m no expert.

I had an overwhelming amount of interaction, I expected maybe 3-5 friends to respond, mainly because I’d asked them to!

The results are in.

Firstly I wanted to know peoples relationship with the straw.

The voting was much closer than I had expected to be honest, with ‘Bars should ask’ being only slightly in the lead. I wasn’t surprised that second place was people wanting straws to be banned. The usage of plastic has been in the media a lot recently and is a major problem. And let’s be honest not many people do actually need a straw.

Yes straws do make drinks fun, I agree. But pollution and animal welfare isn’t.

That a few people actually think straws should always be provided did puzzle me a little.

I also wanted to see what materials people thought might make for a good straw.

Yes more than one person suggested we stick with plastic… I’m not judging. I don’t know what we should do.

The very slight majority thought paper straws are a good idea. You’ve read my personal thoughts on this. But maybe they’d be better for quick or cold drinks. Maybe a step up anyway.

Silicone isn’t a bad idea, for personal use anyway.

Something else… but what?

Here are some comments made on my Twitter Polls. To read more head over to my page.

‘They are clear, disposable and made of corn starch I think. Looks and feels like plastic.’

‘Would be great if there were more alternatives readily available but we mustn’t vilify plastic as paper isn’t as robust for those who chew and reusable may not be possible for various reasons, inc hygiene. We should get better at recycling plastic then less of an issue!’

‘The corn strarch suggestion on your other post sounds interesting though!? If that could be mass produced perhaps that would be a viable alternative?’

A quote from Amicos, a bar in London, on Instagram –

‘At @amicosbar we are looking into everyway to help the environment… one area are disposables within the bar. Besides us using Straws made from Straw we are also addressing the usage of Tea Light Candles in bars and restaurants. We are reusing our citrus fruit as natural candles and the wick itself filled with vegetable oil to replace the generic tea light candles and or other variants.’

I haven’t tried these straw straws, but I do plan on giving these and other alternatives a go.


I think that’s enough for one day and one blog post. My mind is buzzing, I don’t know about yours!

As things stand I’m persevering with the silicone straws at home, doing my bit where I can to save the planet. I’m still carrying plastic straws around in my handbag, and I still ask for a straw if I’m offered in bars and restaurants.

What can we/I do? What’s the next step?

I say that to stop giving out straws willy-nilly is a start. Use other materials where possible.

If other materials were in higher demand they will become cheaper, that’s the way it works.

To be continued…..


64 thoughts on “The Last Straw?”

  1. This debate is raging at the moment. I totally understand it. There are too many plastics and they end up in the oceans and hurting all sorts of animals which is wrong. However many people need to use things like straws for all sorts of reasons so an outright ban isn’t the way forward in my opinion. I use straws with my fizzy drinks as it’s betyer for your teeth and I am a regular coke fiend.

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  2. The village we live in has gone plastic straw free. Like yourself my brother needs straws with his drinks (hot and cold) and really they need to be bendy and not paper. I finally got around to ordering some silicone ones that look like they’re the same as yours but the reason I ordered those particular ones is that they gone in different width sizes which I thought was good, most of the ones I’d found looked a bit too wide for my brother. They’re from a company called Seraphina’s kitchen if it helps. I made the whole family drink our coffee through one when they arrived and although I’m glad I don’t have to do this with every drink I didn’t think they were too bad. My brother seems happy with them which is the main thing. The packaging says you can cut them to size too which I think will be helpful.

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  3. Great Blog Post. I am someone who needs a straw, when it’s glass, or when I’m having my bad flare ups I need straw in hot and cold drinks. So banning them is not the answer, but like you don’t know the answers, theres always this fear banning things all well and good but chronic ill people are not thought about as highly as we should be. Anyway love the topic. x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your encouragement and kind words. It is definitely a very important subject and everybody’s uses need to be taken into consideration when something is wanted to be banned. In my opinion it’s the materials that need to be thought about.

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  4. I loved this. You successfully brought me into your world where straws are a necessity! And you showed both sides of the issue. Not sure what to do about it, but a full out straw ban is clearly not the answer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I think that for most people there would be no reason to consider the straw as necessity, so to them the ban is the right thing to do. I think what needs to be considered are other materials.

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  5. This is such a brilliant post! I have been wondering what to buy for my toddler as an easy out and about option when only bottled water is available. I remember having a solid reusable plastic straw as a kid, which is probably still in a draw at my parents’ house. I am definitely going to look into silicone straws, glass is probably not a good idea for a chewy toddler!

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    1. Oh no I wouldn’t want a toddler to bite down on the glass!
      I’m really getting use to using the silicone straws now, and I do feel good that I’m doing my small bit for the environment.
      Hopefully biodegradable straws will eventually become more popular, therefor more cost effective for restaurants and bars to use.

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  6. I know that some people use metal ones. I like your silicone ones with the bristle cleaner! It’s definitely a problem that needs addressing, and this was an excellent post. I’m not sure about my end. I think I will try to just drink from the cup/mug and wipe my mouth with tissue as needed.

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    1. Thank you!
      I’ve been looking into metal straws recently and they do look like an option. Some even come with a bend which is handy. I think they also use a bristle cleaner. There might be another straw blog post in the coming months 😉

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  7. A great post with a lot of work gone into it. Interesting about the straw dilemma I wonder whether cardboard might be a possibility as paper is not strong enough. I have used straws in restaurants to help me before and occasionally at home I will.

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    1. Thank you. I felt it was an important issue that needed to be discussed. And as plastic and straw bans are in the media so much at the moment, I wanted to put my thoughts and needs across.
      Yes maybe a more substantial paper/card would would work better.

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  8. This is an issue I have given little thought to–except for the fact that my son loves straws but it increases the frequency of toots, so I banned them from my house! But, you bring up so many good points. not the least of which is: there are more than one side to an issue and the factors are complex. Even something as simple as a straw and the laudable desire to improve the environment has real impacts on quality of life for important people. I’ll need to give this one more thought. I love the idea of the twitter poll, very thoughtful post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by.
      I’d always taken straws for granted myself, even though I need them to live really. I’d never really thought about how many I use and throw away until this potential ban was considered.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I can take them or leave then tbh. Kids love them though. We got some Kilner mugs as a present. They have very hard plastic re-usable straws in them. They’re quite wide, similar to your sillicone ones. Kid loves them & I haven’t bought disposable straws in months. I would definitely buy sillicone straws. I didn’t realise there was such a thing. I must look out for some. I’ll post you a photo of my Kilner straw on Twitter! #SocialSaturday 😀

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    1. I never really thought about it either, or the amount of straws I go through in a day. I’m being much more careful now and using my silicone ones more. Straws need to be available in venues still, it’s the materials that need to be looked into. Or the recycling options.

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  10. An acquaintance of mine carries a metal straw in her purse at all times. Her purpose is less functional and more cosmetic (she doesn’t want to smear lipstick!), but she is happy with her process. I’ve never seen silicone straws, so thanks for the introduction.

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  11. I for one am for personal responsibility over laws and restrictions designed to force us to act properly…I am for recycling, and hate unnecessary waste, but your points are valid so let us have the option to ask for one if needed or desired!

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  12. Well tackled Gemma. It’s heartening to see that people are starting to see issues where they have been in a thoughtless and wasteful place before.
    As far as I’m concerned – and as you know, I am concerned enough to be cleaning a beach of plastics voluntarily and at least weekly – it’s people who don’t *need* straws (whatever they’re made of) who are the ones to think about refusing their use in future, that’ll make a pretty big dent in the 500 million to start off with!

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    1. It absolutely would! I hope I am gradually doing my part too. Since writing this I have mostly used a reusable silicone straw unless out. In just under a week I have probably saved 20+ straws from ending up on beaches. I used to go through a lot of straws! I think we (myself included) don’t always think of our waste until we are reminded.

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  13. Really interestin to get your perspective on this, as most of us dont think of a straw as something that can be really useful for someone.
    Also interesting to see how getting rid of straws isn’t such a simple, harmless thing

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  14. Thank you I live in my own bubble and never thought straws were needed the way you described. So no ban but individuals who do not need to use them should be aware of the environmental issue and we if don’t need a straw or whatever else is just cosmetic we should decline (so staff should ask first). For me that would the best and everyone supporting everyone else needs – not wants. Hope that made sense!!

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    1. You make sense and I totally agree. A redesign so that straws can be disposed of properly would be idea. But for now, just saying no when we don’t need something plastic, is a great start.

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    1. Thank you, and yes of course include me and this piece.
      Straws are just a fraction of my plastic waste when I think of it. Much of it medical and disability related too. Maybe this needs to be considered more in manufacturing.

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  15. I think bars should definitely ask. Also people should accept that some people need to do things differently for whatever reason – I don’t need straws usually, but I once drank coffee through a straw when I’d been to the dentist and my entire face was numb, but I still needed my coffee fix. I’ve never tried it, but I think drinking through glass should be ok – we drink out of glass after all. As long as they were easily transportable and strong.

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    1. I think I might have to give glass a go sometime, also metal has been suggested. I need a straw that has a bend, so will have a look around.
      Yes I agrees bars should ask first, for now anyway, while we are still using plastic and until a better option is used.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Like the person above me mentioned, stainless steel straws work well! I have used them for hot drinks too and it wasn’t too bad because it had a silicone sleeve you could put on it. x

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    1. Paper straws are probably much more useful for crafts than drinking!
      I know. I’m guilty of going through upto 10 straws a days. I feel awful admitting it. But I can’t drink without one. That’s why I’m now trying alternatives.

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      1. I just read about reusable Bambo straws… Honestly the thought of the possible taste, never mind the other possible outcome. I am sure if you tried them I would absolutely love your review!!

        Liked by 1 person

  17. I like the idea of people taking a silicone straw with them. I’ve noticed some more ethical bars having the straws behind the bar counter so you have to ask – assuming most people won’t bother. I remember having paper ones as a teen when I got embarrassed by my sippy cup but was still clumsily throwing my drink at my face but like you say not exactly durable. There’s biodegradable vegetable starch cutlery so I’m not sure why there are no straws made of this too.

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    1. I think it’s much better to have straws behind a counter because also then you haven’t got everybody touching them. But yes also then people also only ask if they really want/need one.
      I’m looking into biodegradable plastics. I guess there’s not much around because there was little demand, which means cost is high. But maybe this will start to improve.

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  18. I had a look at details in work. We have used Vegware products before quite successfully. They stock biodegradable straws in a range of types, made out of bio plastic. A limitation would be that they are only good up to 40 degrees, not good enough for soup or tea but perfect for cold drinks or cocktails 🍸

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