Switching to paper straws to save the environment? They are more toxic for you
Sad news ensues for all eco-soldiers. If you thought you were saving the world by using paper straws, think again. Study shows it could be worse than plastic.
Paper straws are not the last straw that could save the world from plastic. A study published in the journal Food Additives & Contaminants suggests that paper straws are toxic to the environment. A team of Belgian researchers carried out the research and stated that these “green” utensils are much worse than their vilified counterparts.
Thimo Groffen, an environmental scientist, Ph.D., and study author, said in a statement, "Straws made from plant-based materials, such as paper and bamboo, are often advertised as being more sustainable and eco-friendly than those made from plastic.”
“However, the presence of PFAS [poly- and perfluoroalkyl-based substances known as “forever chemicals” because they last for a long time before breaking down] in these straws means that’s not necessarily true,” added the scientist, who works at the University of Antwerp.
Earlier, various US cities like New York and restaurant chains had led initiatives to ban plastic straws comprised of polypropylene and polystyrene, which take hundreds of years to degrade and lead to health problems like birth defects.
In 2018, the City Council introduced a proposal to prohibit restaurants and bars from using plastic sippers. This was supported by the then mayor, de Blasio, who said, “Their time has come and gone. I believe we should get rid of plastic straws.”
While there are many countries like the UK and Belgium that have moved on to the supposedly 'eco-friendly' alternatives, the research alleges that 90% of paper straws have more PFAS than plastic ones.
For research purposes, 39 brands of drinking straws are made up of paper, bamboo, glass, stainless steel, and plastic.
While bamboo straws had 80% PFA, plastic straws were filled with 75%, followed by 40% in glass straws, and luckily none in steel straws. '
“The presence of PFAS in paper and bamboo straws shows they are not necessarily biodegradable,” added Groffen.
He stated how there was only one true alternative to any kind of harmful straws which was steel straws.
"We did not detect any PFAS in stainless-steel straws, so I would advise consumers to use this type of straw — or just avoid using straws at all,” advised the researcher.
Interestingly, it still remains unclear how PFAS enter these straws. Many are of the view that they may have been added on purpose as a liquid repellant while some think they could stem from the soil that the plant-based materials grow i