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How Much Impact Do Biodegradable Straws Have on the Environment?

How Much Impact Do Biodegradable Straws Have on the Environment?

Apr 26,2023
Biodegradable Straws
Single-use plastics pose serious problems for our planet. Thanks to famous images of chaotic coastlines and distressed sea creatures, we're all getting that fact now - and about time.

According to a 2017 study, Europeans use 36 billion disposable straws every year. In the U.S., that number rises to 1 billion straws used every day. Given the sheer volume, it's no surprise that straws end up where they shouldn't be.

Thankfully, the government is now taking action. Across Europe, single-use plastic bans will come into force in 2021, targeting products such as straws, cotton swabs, and single-use cutlery. Businesses, therefore, need to find an alternative - one that is both acceptable to consumers and better for the environment.

Biodegradable straws are one of the available alternatives that meet these criteria. Why? As you know, conventional plastic can take up to 500 years to break down in nature. On the other hand, biodegradable materials like paper can break down within months or even weeks. This makes them much less damaging to the ocean and the environment as a whole.

In this article, we want to share some of the real environmental benefits biodegradable straws promise. As part of a larger strategy to reduce single-use plastic use, switching to biodegradable straws can make a huge difference. It's not just about sea life. Conversely, by using alternative resources to fossil fuels, biodegradable straws can reduce the ecological footprint of the entire product lifecycle, from production to disposal.

First, though, let's clarify what we mean by biodegradable. In an increasingly ecologically conscious world, it's a word we hear a lot. However, as more and more products carry that label, it's important to understand what we're talking about.

When materials biodegrade, they break down into smaller and smaller pieces once discarded. This happens with all materials, even plastic, which breaks down into what we call microplastics - plastic particles smaller than 5 millimeters. So it's not a very precise term. However, we call biodegradable those products that break down into organic matter with the help of bacteria without leaving behind toxins.

Biodegradable alternatives to plastic straws include products made from organic materials such as straws, pasta, bamboo or paper. These break down without leaving traces on timescales sometimes as short as weeks.

However, businesses should always know exactly what they are buying. Straws made of wood or bamboo are often labeled biodegradable.

Benefits of Biodegradable Straws

Single-use plastic straws are no longer a viable option. Research shows that consumers are more receptive to legally sustainable products that don't make commercial sense. However, given the impact plastic straws have on the environment, they also don't make sense for the health of our planet.

Biodegradable alternatives are the future. However, what positive impact do they actually have on the environment? Here are four ways biodegradable straws really work.

Biodegradable Straws Reduce Threat of Marine Litter

Two-thirds of people in Europe and the Americas associate the word "plastic" with marine debris, according to a recent study. Half thought plastic was "bad". Plastic has a reputation problem - and a well-deserved one.

Researchers estimate that 8 million tons of this material are added to the ocean each year. While half of the plastic we produce is single-use - including straws, cotton swabs, and cigarette holders - these items account for 89% of ocean plastic. Crucially, it's non-biodegradable - research predicts that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

Switching to biodegradable straws won't solve the problem of litter already in the ocean. However, it helps us stop adding more. Plastic straws are the seventh most commonly collected piece of litter on beaches around the world, a study has found. By turning to straws that decompose naturally, we can prevent this damage to our landscapes and ecosystems - and make our oceans a place for fish, not trash.

Biodegradable Straws Reduce Microplastics in Oceans and on Land

However, a commonly overlooked fact about ocean plastic is that only 1% is actually visible. Well, 99% is either too deep or too small to see. We call these microplastics - and they've reached some of the most remote parts of the world.

In the ocean, these particles are ingested by marine organisms - thus, they can harm individual organisms and affect food chains to a large extent. For example, zooplankton often eats microplastics, which prevents them from getting enough nutrients from actual food and hinders their growth and ability to reproduce. As a result, fish, whales, and other plankton-eating animals don't get the food they need.

Biodegradable straws, on the other hand, disappear completely within a few months. That means they probably don't make it into the ocean at all -- and if they do, they won't cause harm if ingested. This helps ensure that everything in the food chain, including humans, has all the food it needs.

Biodegradable Material Is Non-toxic

Common sense tells us that it could take up to a thousand years for plastic to disappear completely. However, studies have shown that while the process is slow, plastics are still breaking down - and they leach chemicals into the environment as they break down.

For example, plastics in the ocean are thought to release bisphenol A, or BPA, a chemical known to disrupt hormones in animals. Plastics that end up in landfills release similar chemicals, which can affect local soil systems and rivers.

Biodegradable straws do not release toxic substances when they are made of organic materials such as paper. Instead, their chemical structure is easily digested by bacteria and easily returned to organic matter. At a time when pollution from decomposing plastic is 23 times higher on land than in the ocean, switching to biodegradable alternatives could have a huge impact.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint by Transitioning from Plastic to Biodegradable Paper.

Plastic production is one of the heavy industries that emit the most greenhouse gases in the world. First, it's notoriously energy-intensive. However, plastics themselves are produced from fossil fuels - which are known to release greenhouse gases such as methane and ethylene as they degrade.

In this way, the problem with plastics is not limited to their physical impact on marine life or their chemical impact on the planet. Instead, throughout its lifecycle - from manufacture to disposal - plastics are contributing to global warming. Therefore, by adopting biodegradable straws, businesses are also contributing to the fight against climate change.

Instead of fossil fuels, biodegradable paper straws are made from a more environmentally friendly alternative resource. That is the natural forest. Therefore, biodegradable straws can achieve carbon neutrality and avoid dependence on non-renewable resources.

Finding Alternatives to Single-Use Plastics

Around the world, consumers and governments are waking up to the damage caused by single-use plastics. Single-use straws, swabs, bags, and cutlery will be restricted across Europe from 2021, while consumers increasingly look for sustainable alternatives.

However, these need to cater to everyone. One of the benefits of plastic straws is convenience, allowing people with disabilities to drink comfortably, for example. In a world affected by Covid-19, disposables also have hygiene benefits. Of all the alternatives to plastic straws - from reusable metal and glass to single-use materials - biodegradable paper straws are the only ones that offer concrete ecological benefits without sacrificing user experience and important choices.

It's important to remember, though, that biodegradable straws alone won't save the world. These plastics make up only 1% of marine litter. However, as part of a larger move away from single-use plastics, biodegradable straws could have a considerable impact on the health of the planet.

The importance and benefits of degradable straws have been introduced above. If you are looking for degradable disposable straws, please contact us.

Greenwood is a professional custom disposable wooden tableware wholesale manufacturer in China. We have been developing and producing biodegradable disposable wooden cutlery for 20 years. The products cover 116 kinds of bamboo and wood disposable tableware in 10 categories. Greenwood has mature and complete core technology experience, has obtained BRC, BSCI, FSC, SGS, LFGB and other certifications, and can guarantee product quality efficiently, stably and efficiently.