How Do Paper Straws Work?

July 27, 2020
How Do Paper Straws Work?

In a world that is grappling with the issue of how to reduce the quantity of plastic waste it produces, paper straws have an important role to play. They provide an eco-friendly alternative to the disposable plastic straw, 25.3 billion of which are used in Europe during a single year.

Rather than slowly degrading into harmful micro-plastics over hundreds of years, like plastic straws, paper straws are fully biodegradable. In other words, natural processes of decomposition cause paper straws to break down and return to organic matter in the soil when they’re disposed of after use.

But are paper straws as good for users as they are for the environment? Various myths and misconceptions surround paper straws, suggesting that for all their eco-friendly credentials they’re simply not enjoyable or practical for drinking. While some of these objections may prove justified for the low-quality paper drinking straws, high-quality paper straws do provide a satisfying user experience.

So, how do paper straws work? Let’s find out.

How strong are paper straws?

A common complaint about paper straws is that they quickly become soggy when they’re placed in a drink. It’s argued that when the straw enters the liquid it starts to dissolve, leaving the drinker with tiny pieces of paper floating around in their cup or glass. Naturally, this then impacts the person’s enjoyment of their drink in a way that a plastic straw would not.

However, this objection doesn’t apply to paper straws manufactured to a high standard. Paper straws such as those made by Tembo are created to be strong; in fact, they resist water for up to four hours. This means that they stay firm and keep the shape for the time it takes to consume a drink (and longer!).

Of course, if the paper straw is left in liquid for longer than four hours, it will begin to become soft and dissolve. This, however, demonstrates how easily the straw will biodegrade after use. In contrast to a plastic straw, a paper straw isn’t in danger of contributing to the 8 million tons of plastic waste flooding into our oceans, because it will safely disintegrate back into the soil. 

Do Paper Straws Taste of Anything?

Another objection to paper straws is that they can leave an unpleasant taste in the user’s mouth. Some people notice a papery or cardboard-like flavour from the straw, while others say there is a chemical taste from the glue used to manufacture it. Either way, the argument goes, a paper straw will spoil the flavour of your milkshake or cocktail, making it an unsatisfactory alternative to a plastic straw.

Paper straws made with low-quality paper and glue may indeed leave a papery or bitter taste. However, paper straws carefully produced using certified paper and glue that is specifically designed for food and drink packaging are free from this problem. Paper straws like Tembo’s are made in this way, ensuring that the straws have a neutral odour and taste.

In addition, manufacturing paper straws in a certified, fully-controlled environment removes any risk of contamination that could affect the taste or safety of the straws.

Can You Make Paper Straws in Different Shapes?

Perhaps because people are used to seeing paper straws that are straight and relatively wide in shape, they imagine that it’s not possible to produce them in any other way. This then leaves paper straws looking much less versatile than plastic straws, in terms of how we can use them. A straight straw can be more difficult for children to drink with, for example.

In reality, a sophisticated paper straw manufacturing system, such as Tembo’s Paper Papyrus machine, can produce paper straws in all the typical designs used for disposable plastic straws. This includes U-shape and telescopic straws. Further, Tembo’s patented vertical spiralling system allows paper straws to be made in a much smaller diameter than is possible with other manufacturing processes.

Do Paper Straws Really Biodegrade?

It’s sometimes claimed that paper straws aren’t really biodegradable because of the chemicals that are used to manufacture them. There is concern that the glue used to hold the paper together may extend the time it takes the straw to decompose.

For this reason, a high-quality paper straw will be produced with a certified, environmentally sound glue. But, more than this, precise and accurate manufacturing ensures that only the minimum amount of glue is applied to give the paper straw its necessary strength. As a result, a used paper straw will only take a matter of weeks to biodegrade.

Why Do We Need Drinking Straws Anyway? 

Single-use plastic straws are facing bans across the world as governments and businesses seek to reduce their plastic waste and protect the environment. However, there is a question over whether we should be replacing disposable plastic straws with biodegradable paper straws. 

Do we actually need to drink through straws at all?

Well, the fact is that certain members of our societies depend on straws to make their lives easier and protect their dignity. This includes the elderly and people with particular medical conditions, who find it difficult to drink straight from the cup or glass.

In addition, with the popularity of takeaway drinks unlikely to fall any time soon, it’s important that there is an eco-friendly alternative to plastic straws available. 

Paper Straws: The Verdict

How well do paper straws work? When produced to a high standard, they provide an extremely practical and enjoyable drinking experience. High-quality paper straws, like those made by Tembo Paper, have a strong design so that they resist liquid for four hours without becoming soggy. They also have a neutral taste and odour that doesn’t affect the flavour of the user’s drink.

With the right technology, paper straws can be produced in a variety of different shapes for different uses, including U-shaped and telescopic, as well as with a narrow diameter. Precise manufacturing with the best materials produces a paper straw that is completely biodegradable and eco-friendly.

Drinking straws are important for maintaining quality of life for many people who need extra assistance to stay hydrated, as well as being a practical solution for drinking on-the-go. High-quality paper straws are a great replacement for single-use plastic straws, helping to alleviate the issue of plastic pollution. 

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash