When I was first introduced to zero waste living, the idea of a metal straw to replace all your future plastic single-use straws made a lot of sense. Apart from the environmental damage, plastic straws can leach BPA and other chemicals into your drink, so that’s twice the reason to say no to them.
In the past year, we have celebrated the rising public awareness together as the tide began to move in Malaysia and across the world.
Every cafe with metal straws, or paper straws
Every sign that said “Tak Nak Straw” in support of our local “No Straw” campaign,
Every share on Facebook.
The public now keyed into this, sexy metal straws started to infiltrate our Instagram feeds. Seemingly overnight, businesses mushroomed both physical and online. The choices grew with different designs and colors attracting the next sale.
I started noticing gifts with metal straws, and people excited about their new discovery buying metal straws to gift to their friends and family.
The mainstream businesses then jumped on it, emblazoning metal straws with their logos.
The intentions come from a good place. All of us want to encourage people to give up their plastic straws, without a doubt.
More metals straws meant more people were going off plastic straws, right?
Then I got two separate gifts of metal straws gifted to me. One of them from my sister who was regifting it because several people had also gifted her metal straws. That gave me some pause.
Are these metal straws actually being used?
So before you buy a metal straw, here are 7 Things To Consider Before You Get A Metal Straw
Its About The Habit, Not The Tool
Buying a metal straw doesn’t change a habit anymore than buying a treadmill will get someone to start exercising.
The key is the intention to give up plastic straws and the discipline to do so.
The awesome thing is, if you’re reading this and you’re in the market for a metal straw, you’re already someone who feels for the environmental concerns of single-use plastic and have all the right motivations for it.
Take the time to explore what works best for you to help you give up the plastic straw.
You can start immediately by refusing plastic straws. Condition yourself to use a gentle “No” to all straws on cue with every drink order. You’ll need it, regardless of whether you have a metal straw or not to avoid a plastic straw showing up automatically in your drink.
Experience the straw-less drinks for some time and then decide if you would prefer to be doing it with your very own metal straw instead.
It can be easy to view the metal straw as an essential part of the zero waster’s tool kit. But the lack of a metal straw was never going to stop you from saying “NO” to a plastic straw anyway.
For me personally, I found that I didn’t need a metal straw and refusing straws was enough.
Here’s How You Can Make Full Use Of Your Metal Straw
- Keep it with you in your your bag. Treat it like your wallet and phone, it moves to whichever bag you’re bringing out that day.
- Rinse it off in the sink after each drink! Some metal straw users have also suggested sipping from your water through your straw before putting it away to give it a quick clean. This makes giving it a thorough cleaning easier later, and if you forget, it’s not a big deal either.
- Keep it in its own small case. That way you won’t have to find a place to wash off the grit at the bottom of your bag off before each use. If yours didn’t come with a case, any small case or pencil case you have at home can be used.
Less Is More, The Reusable Straw is Long Term
The cost of a single metal straw averages at about RM7.00, a very accessible price that allows anyone to get one for themselves. But we don’t actually need multiples.
Some of us can get overenthusiastic and have one in every colour, or buy multiples to be gifted to everyone.
It’s definitely borne out of great intentions but may result in a lot of forgotten and unused metal straws.
Of course, if you find you need more than one to have a spare in your car/bag, go ahead!
Ponder over what works best for you to support you in saying no to the plastic straw.
But at the same time, exercise restraint in going on a straw buying spree.
Metal straws consume more energy and resources to produce, some of which are harmful to the environment due to mining practices. Plus, one metal straw can last you a long, long time.
The Metal Straw is Personal
The metal straw is a personal choice, and though we can encourage the use of it, take a moment to ask yourself a few simple questions before you buy it:
If it’s for yourself:
- Will I use it?
- Will I incorporate this into my habits, bring it with me, wash it?
If you’re gifting it,
- Will my friend use it?
- Has he/she expressed interest in a metal straw and/or has been trying to refuse single-use straws?
There isn’t a hard and fast rule to metal straws, in fact there isn’t a barrier to getting a metal straw at all. But a metal straw is best used by someone who wants to give up single-use straws, or it may be reduced to being clutter in a forgotten drawer.
Would you buy someone a pair of chopsticks if the person isn’t familiar with using chopsticks, doesn’t intend to start learning how to, and eats sushi with a fork? I would guess not.
You know them best, use your judgement to see if a metal straw would help them give up plastic straws!
Sometimes, You Actually Need A Reusable Straw
Many of us subscribe to the no-straw option. But in our tropical climate with delicious cold drinks, we are faced with… Coconuts and Bubble Tea. Two common scenarios where the wide metal straw actually come in very handy.
Not forgetting the fact that some people have very sensitive teeth or other medical-related issues that would require the use of straws. These are the shining moments of a reusable straw.
People Will Notice (And It Will Be Awesome)
The wonderful side effect of whipping a metal straw from your bag is it usually draws attention from the people around you.
If they’ve not seen one before, it sparks their curiosity to ask about it. It’s a great conversation starter and a gentle approach to the environmental dangers of single-use plastic.
If they are familiar with it and even if they don’t ask about it, that little moment can trigger someone to be reminded of the habit to say no to a straw. It also helps to reinforce the idea of metal straws and that returning to reusables is normal.
Paraphrasing from Seth Godin, when you allow people to draw their own conclusions, it is far more effective than just announcing the punch line.
There are Alternatives To The Alternative (And It Is Not Plastic)
Metal doesn’t have to be your first choice. First, it can get pretty hot if you left it in your car in the sun, it is temperature sensitive and will adapt to your drink’s temperature as well. The quality can vary between manufacturers, so you’ll want to make sure you choose one made with food grade stainless steel.
Glass straws are great because it’s an inert and impermeable material, however it is breakable. It is also 100% recyclable BUT there are very limited recycling plants in Malaysia and most of our glass isn’t recycled. Other countries may have better recycling facilities, check for your local resources.
Silicone straws are flexible and temperature-stable. They can be tossed in anywhere in your bag or even tied into a knot, definitely not as rigid as a metal or breakable as glass.
Bamboo straws are a sustainable source but will degrade and need to be replaced over time. They are completely biodegradable!
There are even biodegradable single-use straws like paper, papaya stalks, even kangkung stalks!
And of course, the easiest alternative: No straw at all.
Be Careful Around Marketing Gimmicks
A low waste life is a concept that is more layered than what can be contained within a sentence, so we often fall back to the usual lines.
“Say No To Single Use Plastic”
”Use A Metal Straw”
Everywhere you go, someone may be trying to sell you a metal straw.
It bothers me when supply gradually outpaces the demand just like every example of consumerism out there.
The metal straw and other reusable straws form part of a movement for people to switch from single-use disposables to reusables. So it only makes sense if it fulfills it’s purpose; namely it replaces your single-use plastic straws and it is reused over and over again.
So my friend, stay cognisant of marketing gimmicks to sell you more straws than you may need.
Know yourself and how a metal straw fits into your life. If you decide its the best fit for you, if you decide on another reusable straw, or even no straw at all, you are amazing for giving up single-use plastic straws.
Welcome to the No Straw Movement. It’s awesome, and you MAY not need a metal straw after all =)’
Remember, the reason reusables exist is to help us give up our careless plastic consumption, and not for us to consume more.
P.S. : A little note on communal straws in cafes
I am all for communal metal straws! Cafes who serve with metal straws are awesome.
Some may be hesitant to use them, but cafe owners who provide metal straws have taken on a responsibility and understand the need to clean them correctly. After all, it was easier for them to just buy disposables and not care. It’s the same with cutlery, no one bats an eyelid against reusing them.