When stainless-steel straws kill

Ever since someone found a sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck up its nostril, the world has gone nuts about the hazards of plastic straws, with cities across the United States and Europe banning these harmful items. A number of alternatives have been introduced, such as a rigid plastic straw made from Eastman’s Tritan and stainless-steel (SS) straws made by a variety of companies to help consumers do the “green” thing.

stainless-steel drinking straw

Sounds great except that on July 11, numerous reports came out that a 60-year-old British woman impaled herself on a 10-inch eco-friendly stainless-steel straw and died. Reports said that she slipped and fell, impaling herself through the eye and into her brain. The straw was secured in a lidded mason-jar drinking glass, which people close to the incident said caused the straw to impale the woman. The assistant coroner suggested that “users of the straws should not secure them in place.”

An online search showed that you can buy a package of 100 stainless-steel straws from Crestline for $307.00; a nine-pack of SS straws is available from Target, complete with cleaning brush (these SS straws get a bit grungy after a few uses), for $7.99; a four-pack of SS straws can be purchased from Bed, Bath and Beyond, also for $7.99 with a cleaner brush; and Klean Kanteen makes 18/8 SS straws with a “safe, food-grade removable silicone flexible tip” (so you don’t chip your teeth) and an eco-friendly “natural palm-fiber bristled brush” for easy cleaning. The latter comes with an added note: “No more plastic!” Well, yes, except for the flexible silicone removable tip. They really need to find an alternative for that before they print the final “brag” line.

People have gone completely mad! Can you imagine how your drinks taste sucking through an SS straw? If you thought that chlorine-bleached paper straws make your drinks taste funny, try stainless steel!

No restaurant would dare use reusable SS straws, given the liability of these harmful instruments. Additionally, these eco-friendly SS straws require cleaning after use with hot, soapy water using the brush provided, which means more manual labor for the restaurant. In fact, one news item said that in 2016 Starbucks recalled 2.5 million of the SS straws due to reports of mouth lacerations in young children using the straws.

One can just imagine children using a SS straw with the danger of perhaps falling forward with that in their mouth and puncturing the roof of their mouth! A child’s sippy cup with an SS straw—perish the thought!

Avoplast straws
Avoplast straws are made from avocado pits that ordinarily would be discarded.

I came across a new straw type at a restaurant just last weekend. Called Avoplast, this straw made from avocado pits is more rigid than a paper straw or even a plastic straw (so caution should be used for young children), but it has no taste when sipping a drink—even water—through it. Developed by a young man attending the Technologico de Monterrey—a large technical/engineering university in Monterrey, Mexico—Scott Munguia came up with the idea when he saw how many hundreds of thousands of avocado pits (300,000 tons) go to landfills every year when food companies make guacamole.

Munguia, whose company Biofase now produces the straws, sources the raw materials from guacamole and avocado oil manufacturers that discard the pits. According to its website, Biofase uses a patented process to convert around 130 tons of avocado pits monthly into a biopolymer called Avoplast, which is also made into forks, knives and spoons. The biopolymer made from avocado pits is similar to one made from corn. While the resin sells for 15% more than traditional plastics, Munguia believes it’s worth it.

I’m actually impressed with his ingenuity! While I’m still a fan of plastic straws, I found the Avoplast straw quite nice to use.

Let’s face it, life has its risks, but plastic straws are the not the doomsday instruments of the planet. On the other hand, SS straws have some real, and potentially deadly, consequences. I hope that the makers of these straws have good liability insurance, and a good attorney. I see some lawsuits coming down the pike from this.

Whenever I’m in a restaurant I specifically ask for a plastic straw, noting that Arizona isn’t even close to the ocean. Yet.

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