If you’re still drinking out of a plastic straw, you might as well be throwing garbage right into the ocean. Or at least that’s the opinion of many who have made the personal pledge to cut their plastic consumption in small, sustainable ways. Thankfully, the move away from plastic straws is not a ban on all straws, which is great news for those who don’t enjoy getting hit in the teeth with ice cubes every time they take a sip.
Eco-friendly alternatives ranging from metal and glass to silicone and paper have swooped in to save the day. And no, they’re not all the same. Some are reusable and even dishwasher-safe, while others are more of a one-and-done option.
To help you weed through the choices, we ranked the most common plastic-straw alternatives from best to worst. Some are great and some don’t totally suck (get it?), but I think we can all agree that paper straws are dead last—and that's a fact.
1. Silicone Straws
Silicone straws easily top our list because they’re durable, long-lasting, flexible, portable, and temperature-resistant for both hot and cold drinks. They’re dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning, too, but you might want to buy a straw brush (if yours doesn't come with one already) to get out any little bits that could grip onto the soft material. Silicone is recyclable, and many brands offer straws in any color under the sun. Plus, the soft material means you won’t chip a tooth, making them especially appropriate for little ones.
2. Metal Straws
First off, don’t believe the myth that metal straws will give your drinks a funny taste—if you’re buying food-grade stainless steel, they’re not any different than your utensils. Metal straws are pretty similar to their (distant) silicone cousins in that they’re also recyclable and come in a bunch of colors, which, of course, will typically skew metallic. They're just as easy to tote around as silicone and are even more durable, but they’re not going to be bendable—unless you grab ones that are already bent at an angle. They lose one star for the potential injury they carry for overeager sippers and the fact that they might get too hot to use with a scalding matcha latte.
3. Glass Straws
Glass straws are just straight-up pretty, full stop. If you can find pastel-tinted glass straws (don’t worry, we did), you might never go back. They run the gamut, however, in quality—some are super delicate and will break easily while others are tougher and more substantial. You can see the insides of the straws to know for sure that they’re clean and there’s no mold building up, but getting to that level of cleanliness is going to take a bit of light-handed patience to make sure they’re spotless—and not broken as a result. If you want to try out glass, spend a little more on a thicker set that you can
toss gently place in the dishwasher.
4. Sugarcane Straws
In the second half of our list, we’re moving away from reusable materials and getting closer and closer to straws that will eventually break down and become one with the earth (or in the case of paper straws, float around your drink). It’s key to remember that even though these options are less durable, they’re still great for the environment and can be more affordable, especially if you’re buying in bulk. What sets sugarcane straws apart from this group is that they’re 100 percent compostable and can be reused a couple of times if carefully cleaned and stored. Keep in mind that hot liquids will likely make them fall apart.
5. Bamboo Straws
Bamboo straws are literal stalks of bamboo that have been cut down and polished into straws. They’re biodegradable, compostable, and great for the environment, too. Don’t try to chew on these, however, because they’ll definitely crack in your mouth and you might open yourself up to the possibility of mouth splinters (fun!). Unlike glass straws that might break or paper straws that might crumple, bamboo straws are easy to throw in a bag and carry around. They’re plant-based (obviously) and can be reused if they’re well maintained.
6. Paper Straws
We tried really hard to find one redeemable quality of paper straws, and came up with this: They’re cheap, especially in bulk. This might be the deciding factor for you and your environmentalist party, and that’s cool—you do you! But to be honest, paper straws have no business going into our drinks. They get mushy fast, and by the time you’ve sipped half of your iced tea, there are pieces of paper bobbing in your glass. Plus, they make everything taste like you chewed on a paper bag. But if you must…