I have a better idea: Always pack some reusable plastic grocery bags in your luggage, along with plastic straws so you are always prepared. Paper bags and straws do not hold up well, and are not compostable except in rare cases where a commercial composter might take paper. However, if someone is stupid enough to throw these paper items into the ocean they will degrade . . . in about 90 days.
There is a “reusable” plastic straw on the market—the Tfees straw injection molded from Eastman’s Tritan co-polyester material, which gives the Tfees straw superior clarity for thorough cleaning. It is BPA-free and made in the USA. The Tfees straws are dishwasher safe, ensuring they will keep their sleek look and clarity after repeated washes. The reusable straws are not prone to breakage or splintering and will not absorb any taste or smell.
Tammi Fee, a degreed nutritionist and exercise specialist, developed and patented the Tfees straws. She believes that health is important and that her straws are a sustainable answer to single-use plastic straws. However, what she has encountered in her marketing efforts is the idea that all plastic straws are bad. “I have this hurdle of educating people in sustainable plastics,” Fee told PlasticsToday in a recent telephone interview. In trying to market her product to various restaurants and bars, she is being told that they are going “plastic free,” which means they can’t use her reusable plastic straw, even though it’s an ideal alternative to a paper straw.
Fee said she is also now competing against stainless-steel straws, which “are starting to get traction.” In addition to conducting heat, Fee is adamant against using a stainless-steel straw in a child’s drink that could impale the roof of his or her mouth. “Additionally, you can’t tell if the stainless-steel straw is clean, and like a stainless-steel water bottle, it must be washed out after every use to prevent mold from developing,” she said. “Tfees straws can be washed in restaurants’ dishwashers or put through steam autoclaves. And because they are clear, you can easily see that they are clean and sanitary for reuse. Unlike paper straws, they will not change the taste of your beverage,” said Fee.
Recently, Fee was invited to join an organization for C-level and above business managers/owners, including Richard Branson. The approval committee liked her product and what she was trying to do. However, when Fee offered to provide free reusable straws at a major event for the organization that anticipated 350 people, she was told, “We’d love to have you join us, but we don’t want your plastic straws because this is a ‘plastic-free’ event.”
So, I asked a few restaurant owners how and where they compost their “compostable” paper straws. Only one got back to me. "We do not separate the straws,” he wrote. “I use compostable straws as an alternative to plastic straws, not because I can compost them in the municipal system. I compost all of our kitchen food waste for my personal garden. We recycle glass, some plastic and cardboard. Everything else, including the compostable straws, go to the landfill where they will compost with the other trash. I feel anything is better than plastic straws."