Single-use plastic straws are an environmental problem that few people think about. But consider the popularity of drinks like fountain sodas, iced lattes and bubble teas; all the accompanying plastic straws add up to a lot of plastic waste.

According to Strawless Ocean, we use 500 million straws every day. Those straws are difficult to recycle and add to the plastic catastrophe happening in our oceans.

The Good News

The good news is that awareness is growing. Last September, Seattle partnered with Lonely Whale to go “Strawless in September” with the hashtag #stopsucking. The folks at Martha Stewart pledged to stop using single-use plastic straws for a month. The Last Plastic Straw maintains a list of businesses that have taken their Last Plastic Straw Challenge and eliminated single-use plastic straws from their establishments so you can support them with your patronage.

The other good news is that there are lots of practical alternatives to the single-use plastic straw, including the nine options below.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which helps fund our Recycling Directory, the most comprehensive in North America.

1. Reusable Plastic

Reusable plastic alternatives are probably not the best solution but are far superior to their single-use siblings. Remember Krazy Straws? Why not keep a couple at the office?

2. Acrylic

A step up, acrylic straws are the sort of straws that you find in the reusable cups sold at your local coffeehouse or donut shop. The acrylic is durable but can show some signs of wear from the dishwasher.

3. Glass

Elegant and sustainable, glass straws can up your fancy factor.

4. Metal

Metal straws + milkshakes = heaven. Photo: Adobe Stock

Like glass, aluminum or stainless steel straws can conduct temperature — but for ease and durability, metal is hard to beat. Plus, imagine drinking with a chilled, metal straw the way you would use a frosty mug.

5. Bamboo

Everyone knows about the renewability of bamboo as a resource, so why not capitalize on its strength and versatility to make a sustainable bamboo straw?

6. Plant-Based/Compostable

If single use is important, choose a plant-based product that will easily compost. Flavored, edible straws made from a seaweed-based material are on the way.

7. Paper

Proceeds from these turtle-themed straws benefit the Sea Turtle Care Center in South Carolina. Photo: Aardvark

Classic striped paper straws will add a touch a whimsy and vintage feel to your lemonade, but be warned, some can wilt. Aardvark was the official partner of Strawless in Seattle and is known for making stronger straws.

8. Ice Straw

Fancy a straw but don’t want to fool around with reusables or compostables? Freeze yourself a disappearing straw using a specially designed mold.

9. No Straw

Is no straw a radical move or just, as Strawless Ocean claims, an effort to stop sucking?

Don’t Forget

Keep in mind that if you do choose a reusable straw, you must clean that straw because it is the perfect environment for all kinds of nasty things to grow. It’s not always an easy feat, but many of the companies that make the reusable straws also offer handy, skinny brushes for just that purpose.

9 Alternatives to Single-use Straws

By Leigh Raper

Leigh Raper has a JD from Pepperdine University School of Law and an MFA in creative writing and writing for the performing arts from the University of California Riverside-Palm Desert. Her work has appeared at various publications, including Refinery 29, Atlas Obscura and Mental_Floss.