Paper vs. Plastic Straws: Is Paper Really Better for the Environment?

  
Via:  citizen-kane-473667  •  4 weeks ago  •  52 comments

Paper vs. Plastic Straws: Is Paper Really Better for the Environment?
In the end, paper straws still have large environmental consequences, and are definitely not eco-friendly. For the most part, they are still a single-use waste item.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T



Many restaurants have banned plastic straws due to their harmful effects on the environment, and have switched to paper alternatives instead. But, are paper straws really better for the environment?

The answer isn’t as simple as you may think:

While it’s true that paper straws aren’t as harmful as plastic straws, this doesn’t mean that they aren’t harmful at all. In fact, paper straws can still have many negative environmental effects, especially if they are improperly disposed.

First, let’s go over what exactly makes plastic straws so bad for the environment. Then, we’ll go over how paper straws compare to plastic in terms of environmental impact, and why using paper straws might not be the most eco-friendly decision.

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Citizen Kane-473667
1  seeder  Citizen Kane-473667    4 weeks ago

Hmmm.....

It seems a little more in-depth probing may be needed :

  • Causes pollution : Paper production emits air pollution, specifically 70 percent more pollution than the production of plastic bags [source: Thompson ]. According to certain studies, manufacturing paper emits 80 percent more greenhouse gases [source: Lilienfield ]. And, consider that making paper uses trees that, instead, could be absorbing carbon dioxide. The paper bag making process also results in 50 times more water pollutants than making plastic bags [source: Thompson ].
  • Consumes energy : Even though petroleum goes into making plastic, it turns out that making a paper bag consumes four times as much energy as making a plastic bag, meaning making paper consumes a good deal of fuel [source: reusablebags.com ].
  • Consumes water : The production of paper bags uses three times the amount of water it takes to make plastic bags [source: Lilienfield ].
  • Inefficient recycling : The process of recycling paper can be inefficient -- often consuming more fuel than it would take to make a new bag [source: Milstein ]. In addition, it takes about 91 percent more energy to recycle a pound of paper than a pound of plastic [source: reusablebags.com ].
  • Produces waste : According to some measures, paper bags generate 80 percent more solid waste [source: Lilienfield ].
  • Biodegrading difficulties : Surprisingly, the EPA has stated that in landfills , paper doesn't degrade all that much faster than plastics [source: Lilienfield ].
 
 
 
MrFrost
1.1  MrFrost  replied to  Citizen Kane-473667 @1    4 weeks ago

I spent the last two years working in the print industry, (newspapers, but the company shut its doors back in May), we used a LOT of paper, (obviously). Much of what we used was recycled paper. Looks just as good as first run, just as durable. 

Not sure I am buying the biodegrading argument. Some paper will take a year or more to degrade depending on its weight, how it's been treated, (chemicals), cardboard vs. standard printer paper, etc.. I think the thing to remember about this is that paper is nothing more than wood pulp. So no matter how long it takes, it's just going back to the environment where it came from, that is, it's naturally occuring, we just modify it enough to print on it. Plastic is not naturally occuring, so we toss it into the brush, or trash, whatever, it's pollution. 

Example? 

If I took one roll of paper, 1,200 pounds, and 1,200 pounds of plastic and dropped both in the Atlantic ocean, in a year, the paper roll will most likely be gone.. It will be another 5-700 years before the ocean finally grinds the plastic into nothing. 

As far as paper bags go? I just use those goofy reusable bags. I never buy much anyway. Plastic bags? I admit, I sometimes get a few of them so I can empty the litter box into them, then into the trash. 

Just my opinion of course. 

 
 
 
Paula Bartholomew
1.1.1  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  MrFrost @1.1    4 weeks ago

I would like to see paper receipts be eliminated unless a customer asks for one.

 
 
 
Citizen Kane-473667
1.1.2  seeder  Citizen Kane-473667  replied to  MrFrost @1.1    4 weeks ago

The problem is that on the one hand you are right, water saturation and wave action will indeed grind that roll of paper to mush, but when buried in landfills, not quite as good as you think. Landfills try NOT to allow composting to happen rapidly as it produces methane gas that must be bled off and usually burned as a result. This is why, as noted in the article, that the paper straws and plastic straws will last nearly equally long in a landfill.

Another factor in paper production is that it requires so much energy to produce. Combine that with the chemical pollutants used to make paper, and suddenly that "cleaner" product is a lot "dirtier" than people believe.

Personally, I prefer that we stop producing so much plastic and require that the plastic we do produce be recycled.

 
 
 
MrFrost
1.1.3  MrFrost  replied to  Citizen Kane-473667 @1.1.2    4 weeks ago
Personally, I prefer that we stop producing so much plastic and require that the plastic we do produce be recycled.

No arguments here. 

We use sooooo much plastic. I drink a lot of gatorade. Better than soda, tastier than water. Problem is the endless bottles of plastic. So... I bought 4 half gallon bottles of gatorade, then ordered the dry gatorade off Amazon, and just refill the bottles. I know, it's nothing, but I try to do my part. 

 
 
 
Dismayed Patriot
1.2  Dismayed Patriot  replied to  Citizen Kane-473667 @1    4 weeks ago

But the linked article concludes:

"Overall, it’s true that paper straws are probably much better for the environment than their plastic counterparts."

So if you have to use a straw, paper is the way to go, but it's better to avoid them all together if you are really trying to be planet friendly.

 
 
 
Citizen Kane-473667
1.2.1  seeder  Citizen Kane-473667  replied to  Dismayed Patriot @1.2    4 weeks ago

Bamboo straws would be best as they impart no taste to the liquid and are fully biodegradable and yet rugged enough for multiple use and can last a long time with care.

 
 
 
pat wilson
1.3  pat wilson  replied to  Citizen Kane-473667 @1    4 weeks ago

Also causes facial wrinkles around the mouth, sorta like the ones smokers get.

 
 
 
igknorantzrulz
1.3.1  igknorantzrulz  replied to  pat wilson @1.3    4 weeks ago

yea, but great for manicurist.

.

How about light metal straws, as easily reusable and long lasting, as are spoons, forks, knives, but never sporks...wtf, i've always wanted a Silver Spork.

 
 
 
TᵢG
2  TᵢG    4 weeks ago

At home we use metal straws.   They are of course reusable so that cuts down on the resources to produce and dispose.    The only drawback is that one should probably only use them when still.   Running or walking with them is less safe than paper or plastic because metal straws do not bend or break on impact.

 
 
 
 
Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom
2.1.1  Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom  replied to  katrix @2.1    4 weeks ago
I have a collapsible metal straw.

After reading the link, it's the only kind I would use...   

 
 
 
igknorantzrulz
2.2  igknorantzrulz  replied to  TᵢG @2    4 weeks ago

sorry TiG, wrote my comment before reading yours.

Was not sure they were even used.

 
 
 
Citizen Kane-473667
3  seeder  Citizen Kane-473667    4 weeks ago

How about since we seem to now be stockpiling recyclables rather than shipping them to Third World countries like we used to, we actually start working on a real effort to eliminate pollution????

 
 
 
Heartland American
3.1  Heartland American  replied to  Citizen Kane-473667 @3    4 weeks ago

That’s a good point.  The plastic straw fight is stupid because of the above.  The US has largely contained what gets into the ocean from here so banning plastic straws here for what happened in the past and happens somewhere else is simply beyond stupid.  

 
 
 
MrFrost
3.2  MrFrost  replied to  Citizen Kane-473667 @3    4 weeks ago

How about since we seem to now be stockpiling recyclables rather than shipping them to Third World countries like we used to, we actually start working on a real effort to eliminate pollution????

China used to take a lot of our recycling goods as I recall, but they don't anymore. 

 
 
 
MUVA
3.2.1  MUVA  replied to  MrFrost @3.2    4 weeks ago

I sold aluminum scrap to them for years thru a agent the last 5 years they have hardly paid anything for it I probably have 20,000 lbs waiting for the price to go up. 

 
 
 
MrFrost
3.2.2  MrFrost  replied to  MUVA @3.2.1    4 weeks ago
I sold aluminum scrap to them for years thru a agent the last 5 years they have hardly paid anything for it I probably have 20,000 lbs waiting for the price to go up. 

That's a bit! When the company I worked for closed its doors last may, we had 6 boxes of cut aluminum, (the plates that are used on the press, every run, they have to be changed....anyway..), each box runs between 4,500 and 5,500 pounds. I asked the boss if I could take one to the recycling place for some spare cash, (that I didn't need, but thought it would be fun), and he said that no place would take it because the plates are covered in ink.. I guess some guy out of Seattle gets them and has a process to clean them, then he sells it. 

 
 
 
Citizen Kane-473667
3.2.3  seeder  Citizen Kane-473667  replied to  MrFrost @3.2.2    4 weeks ago

Someone isn't going to the right place. We have a scrap yard here that that buys aluminum, even stained likevl that will get you 26 cents per pound.

 
 
 
MrFrost
3.2.4  MrFrost  replied to  Citizen Kane-473667 @3.2.3    4 weeks ago
Someone isn't going to the right place

Sadly, we have but ONE place in town that will take aluminum, all the others have closed down. Next nearest place is Tacoma or Seattle. Probably Portland too but I never get down there. I did ask out of curiosity if the local place would take 5,500 pounds of cut aluminum covered in ink and they said no. 

 
 
 
igknorantzrulz
3.2.5  igknorantzrulz  replied to  MUVA @3.2.1    4 weeks ago

Aluminum is the lowest i recall in decades

 
 
 
MrFrost
3.2.6  MrFrost  replied to  igknorantzrulz @3.2.5    4 weeks ago

Aluminum is the lowest i recall in decades

Not so much about the return cost as it is decreasing the usage of new aluminum. 

 
 
 
charger 383
4  charger 383    4 weeks ago

I don't use many plastic straws, but I hate wood coffee stir sticks.  They put a bad taste in coffee

 
 
 
Raven Wing
4.1  Raven Wing  replied to  charger 383 @4    4 weeks ago

I have made it a habit of carrying my own metal spoon with me when I am not at home. That way I don't have to depend on whatever is available when I buy something when away from home. There is not much that I would buy away from home that can't be eaten or stirred with as spoon. But, that is just me, and a lesson well learned over the years. 

Also, when eating out at a restaurant/cafe I take my own utensils to use. Not a fanatic about germs, but, I have seen some of the utensils provided at some of these places that still have someone else's meal left on them. I am not that into meal sharing with someone I don't know.  

 
 
 
Tacos!
5  Tacos!    4 weeks ago

It'd be neat if people just tried a lot harder to not litter.

 
 
 
MrFrost
5.1  MrFrost  replied to  Tacos! @5    4 weeks ago

It'd be neat if people just tried a lot harder to not litter.

True. I live out in the woods, one road in, same road out. My neighbors and I keep our properties very clean, no litter, some landscaping, etc.. You get the idea. But not a day goes by that I don't have to pick up an empty soda can, or bottle, empty McDonalds bags. Honestly, there isn't much that pisses me off, but that gets under my skin. 

 
 
 
MUVA
5.1.1  MUVA  replied to  MrFrost @5.1    4 weeks ago

My parents live in rural Arkansas on a road that  has 5 houses my father has has people pull off  I 64 and empty the trash out of there car into the pasture happens also most daily. 

 
 
 
MrFrost
5.1.2  MrFrost  replied to  MUVA @5.1.1    4 weeks ago

My parents live in rural Arkansas on a road that  has 5 houses my father has has people pull off  I 64 and empty the trash out of there car into the pasture happens also most daily. 

I believe it. Two summers ago some jackass came up here in the middle of the night and at the end of the road, (no one lives there, it's just a big turnaround), dumped 8 full bags of garbage a mattress and a box spring. My neighbor and I just threw them in my truck and took it to the dump. So yea, I get that...it's a pain in the ass. 

 
 
 
MUVA
5.1.3  MUVA  replied to  MrFrost @5.1.2    4 weeks ago

My parents had a cow killed and slaughtered one time before they sold some of their land the shit people will do is amazing. 

 
 
 
pat wilson
5.1.4  pat wilson  replied to  MUVA @5.1.1    4 weeks ago

He should set up a security camera system and report the bastards.

 
 
 
MUVA
5.1.5  MUVA  replied to  pat wilson @5.1.4    4 weeks ago

They are lucky he doesn't take a shoot at them just kidding  he is 88 now and in poor health they have sold most of their land and don't have cows any more.

 
 
 
charger 383
5.2  charger 383  replied to  Tacos! @5    4 weeks ago

My family has an Adopt a Highway, named for one of our ancestors, 4 times a year we clean it and then have lunch.  I don't like litter.    

 
 
 
SteevieGee
6  SteevieGee    4 weeks ago

Paper straws are compostable.

 
 
 
Citizen Kane-473667
6.1  seeder  Citizen Kane-473667  replied to  SteevieGee @6    4 weeks ago

Not as quickly or easily as you think. Apparently in a landfill they last almost as long as the plastic straws do, according to the linked article

 
 
 
XDm9mm
6.1.1  XDm9mm  replied to  Citizen Kane-473667 @6.1    4 weeks ago
Apparently in a landfill they last almost as long as the plastic straws do

Once in a 'landfill' any decomposition essentially ceases.   They're usually too compacted, have no light, no air, and effectively no moisture, all of which are necessary for something to decompose.

Hell, I think I was still living in NY in the mid 70's when someone did a core bore of a landfill (Great Kills?  Staten Island NY) and found intact hotdogs, and readable newspapers.

 
 
 
SteevieGee
6.1.2  SteevieGee  replied to  XDm9mm @6.1.1    4 weeks ago

Too much trash, not enough bugs and worms.  I put a lot of my paper trash in my worm farm to compost it myself.

 
 
 
igknorantzrulz
6.1.3  igknorantzrulz  replied to  SteevieGee @6.1.2    4 weeks ago

have the China tariffs affected your farm ?

Trump allocated 14 billion to help u.

Keep up the Asexual predatory work, you obviously

really dig. 

 
 
 
SteevieGee
6.1.4  SteevieGee  replied to  igknorantzrulz @6.1.3    4 weeks ago

The Chinese haven't been buying very many worms lately.  Could be tariffs could be they don't feel like fishing.  Perhaps I should apply for relief.

 
 
 
igknorantzrulz
6.1.5  igknorantzrulz  replied to  SteevieGee @6.1.4    4 weeks ago
could be they don't feel like fishing. 

idk 

sounds a litle fishy to me

 
 
 
Kathleen
7  Kathleen    4 weeks ago

I just bought a small cape cod in the woods. I have not seen any litter yet. The area is very clean. Tons of leaves though, but going to rake when it gets cooler.  I hate using paper straws, but if they help the environment, I will use them. I think they are better because they would decompose a lot faster.

 
 
 
MUVA
7.1  MUVA  replied to  Kathleen @7    4 weeks ago

I have always drank straight from the glass I hate using straws.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
7.1.1  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  MUVA @7.1    4 weeks ago

Not a straw user. Don't use paper or plastic bags in years for grocery shopping. I have my own reusable bags. 

It's really not to hard to do the simple things. 

 
 
 
MUVA
7.1.2  MUVA  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @7.1.1    4 weeks ago

I  have always hated using straws and even take the top off a to go cup.

 
 
 
Kathleen
7.1.3  Kathleen  replied to  MUVA @7.1    4 weeks ago

You sound just like my husband. He hates straws and takes the lids off.

I only use them when I eat out.  I never have them at home.

I knew a person that drank coffee from a straw... ewwwwww.  You are suppose to sip coffee.

 
 
 
MrFrost
7.1.4  MrFrost  replied to  MUVA @7.1    4 weeks ago

I have always drank straight from the glass I hate using straws.

Only time I use a straw is when I get coffee which is literally twice a year? Not a big fan. But I am a sucker for a double white chocolate mocha. 

 
 
 
Kathleen
7.1.5  Kathleen  replied to  Kathleen @7.1.3    4 weeks ago

I wanted to mention that it was hot regular coffee, not the cold ones.

 
 
 
SteevieGee
7.1.6  SteevieGee  replied to  MUVA @7.1    4 weeks ago

I don't use straws either but Mrs. Gee likes one in her cocktail.

 
 
 
bbl-1
8  bbl-1    4 weeks ago

There is no reason America can't build recycling plants.  Recycle everything.  Use what we need and sell the rest to whoever wants it. 

It will take a national investment to do this and the payout in the long run will be more than worth it.  Recycle everything.  Even have facilities set up for the 'rare earth' metals.  This nation could easily cut its landfill use by 90%---and make money doing it.  But first, the commitment and investments must be made.

After all, when Texas Instruments came out with the first hand calculator the price was nearly $500.  Today you can buy one at Walmart for under $5.  We can do this.  We must do this.

Straws?  Piss ant conversation.

 
 
 
pat wilson
8.1  pat wilson  replied to  bbl-1 @8    4 weeks ago
Recycle everything.  Use what we need and sell the rest to whoever wants it. 

I don't think there's a market for it. Otherwise China and other nations would still be buying it from us.

 
 
 
Split Personality
8.1.1  Split Personality  replied to  pat wilson @8.1    4 weeks ago

As I was growing up there were 5 incinerators in Philadelphia in the 60's.

Several are now "archived" Superfund sites but with advances in technology, we could mix in some incineration to steam to electricty

sites if we are serious. It requires more people, more sorting etc, but it is possible.

As usual, one needs only to look at the Nordic countries.

Otherwise we ( our grandchildren and theirs ) will be drowned in refuse.

 
 
 
bbl-1
8.1.2  bbl-1  replied to  pat wilson @8.1    4 weeks ago

The market is there.  Screw China.  We can do it--better--more efficiently.  I see jobs, profit, environmentally smart, jobs and more profit.

It is an absolute necessity.  You know, like building 'the bomb' to end WW2.  Or the money, energy and infrastructure to eradicate polio.  We can do this and we can do it better than anyone than anyone else in the world.  Period, end of story.

But we have to have leadership.  Investment.  And the goal.  Currently we have nothing except plastic pollution, trash, filling landfills, more trash and more plastic.  We do nothing.

 
 
 
luther28
9  luther28    4 weeks ago

Paper vs. Plastic Straws

Simple solution is to get into the way back machine to a time when folks did without straws of any type. Worse thing to come of that would be folks dribbling down their chins.

 
 
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