Biodegradable drinking straws are an eco-friendly alternative to plastic straws. Typically made out of plant-based materials, often agricultural byproducts. You might see biodegradable and compostable straws in your local restaurant or coffee shop and you can buy these drinking straws for your own use. With so many types of biodegradable and compostable straws on the market, it's important to know the difference between biodegradable and compostable straws so you can choose which option best fits your eco-friendly lifestyle. Here's what we'll go over in this guide:
Before we get into the different types of biodegradable drinking straws, let's discuss compostable straws and if they are biodegradable products. We'll also talk about how long it takes these biodegradable straws to break down.
Are compostable straws biodegradable?
Many eco-friendly straws are labeled compostable, biodegradable, or both. Biodegradable simply means that the straw will break down over an unspecified amount of time. Technically, any material is biodegradable over time and depends on the environment. Compostable materials must degrade into a nutrient-rich substance at a certain rate.
For straws to be considered compostable, they need to be certified compostable. This means they are made of organic materials. Biodegradable straws simply refer to any material that breaks down and degrades in the environment.
How long does it take biodegradable straws to break down?
Most things are considered biodegradable, even plastic. Often companies will use biodegradable plastics or bioplastics instead of petroleum-based plastic for their products. Biodegradable straws take anywhere from a few months to a few years to break down, depending on the materials used to create them.
Breaking down biodegradable straws doesn’t have to be complicated or even take years. Using an electric composter, like Lomi, is a quick and easy way to turn food scraps and Lomi-approved biodegradable materials into nutrient-rich fertilizer for your plants in as little as 4 hours.
Types of biodegradable straws
As more companies move to be more green, there are many new types of biodegradable products available. We're no longer limited to just flimsy paper straws that will fall apart while stirring cold beverages. Here are some of the different kinds of biodegradable straws you can buy.
- Paper straws: Paper straws are probably the most common biodegradable drinking straw you'll find. Paper is material from renewable resources and it degrades easily and fast, but can sometimes get soggy quickly.
- Bamboo straws: Bamboo straws are highly sustainable, have good antibacterial properties, don't bend, and can be easily composted at the end of life. You can wash and reuse them for a while before having to toss them in the compost bin.
- Wheat straws: Wheat straws are made from wheat stems. This material is usually treated as waste so converting this ‘waste’ into straws allows for saving natural resources.
- Sugarcane straws: Just like wheat straws, sugarcane straws are made from agricultural byproducts. Sugarcane straws hold up to both hot and cold beverages.
- PLA straws: PLA straws are often made out of corn plastic- a non-petroleum material made by converting corn into resin. PLA straws require industrial composting conditions and are not home-compostable.
- Agave straws: Agave fiber drinking straws are made of agave stems as the byproduct of tequila production.
8 best biodegradable straws you should switch to
Now that you know the different types of biodegradable straws out there, let's look at some of the most eco-friendly, biodegradable, and compostable straws you should switch to in order to kick plastic straws to the curb.
These paper straws are most commonly seen in your local coffee shop and are meant for cold drinks only. Paper straws are made of renewable resources and can easily biodegrade so they won't end up in the ocean.
Why we love these straws: These Lomi Approved straws can easily be composted at home in your Lomi electric composter.
These straws are completely plastic-free and made of a material known as Aircarbon. Aircarbon (PHB) is a microbial bioprocessed polyester material that is made in all ecosystems on Earth. They feel like plastic straws but are fully industrial or home-compostable (in your compost pile or Lomi).
Why we love these straws: Unlike some other biodegradable straws, these straws won't get soggy in your drinks. You can even use them in hot beverages.
Sugarcane straws are a great way to add a little sweetness to your drinks, whether you use them for hot or cold drinks. They won't get soggy or melt in your hot beverages and they come in a variety of sizes, so you can even use them on your favorite boba drinks.
Why we love these straws: These compostable and biodegradable drinking straws are made to be washed and reused for the whole day. Then, when you're done with it, you can just toss it into your Lomi or compost pile.
The Pura Vida Bioplastics jumbo straw is home-compostable, biodegradable, and USDA-certified 100% bio-based from sustainable PHBH. It holds up just like a plastic straw, but without a negative environmental impact.
Why we love these straws: These bioplastic straws are made to fully break down in your Lomi composter, but since they perform like plastic straws, they won't fall apart in your drink.
Once the wheat grain is harvested, the stems are usually treated as waste. By using the wheat stems as straws, Mindful Nature is taking what mother nature has provided us and turning it into a useful product. No need for additional manufacturing like some other biodegradable straws.
Why we love these straws: Wheat straws are made from the stems of the wheat plant after the grain is harvested. We find gluten in the grain and not the stem, so these straws are gluten-free (those with celiac should still check with their doctor) .
These compostable straws from Repurpose are non-toxic and sturdy. Their plant-based straws are certified biodegradable in soil, freshwater, and marine environments, meaning they help keep our ocean friends safe.
Why we love these straws: These straws are designed for a circular economy. When you're done with them, toss them in your Lomi composter and create nutrient-rich dirt for your plants.
These straws are made using agave fibers, a byproduct of tequila production. These fibers would otherwise be wasted and in some cases even be burned which can lead to air pollution. They're 100% natural, organic, biodegradable, and compostable.
Why we love these straws: These straws will last 6 or more hours in your hot or cold beverage, making them great for mixed drinks and parties. Just toss in your compost when you're done.
These disposable straws are made of bamboo fiber, a renewable natural resource that can replace disposable plastic straws. They're great for hold and cold drinks and won't release any harmful chemicals when exposed to higher temps.
Why we love these straws: Bamboo is a renewable resource. These bamboo straws will biodegrade in a matter of 6-8 months.
Top 5 FAQs about biodegradable straws
If you're looking to switch to biodegradable straws as an eco-friendly alternative to plastic straws, you might have a few questions so that you can make the right choice. That's why we've gathered up some common questions about biodegradable straws to make things a little easier for you.
1. Are plastic straws biodegradable?
Most plastics are not biodegradable and cannot be broken down naturally by bacteria or other living things. Plastic straws will gradually disintegrate into smaller and smaller particles, known as microplastics, over a period of up to 200 years.
2. Are PLA straws biodegradable?
PLA bioplastic doesn't degrade as quickly as organic matter. It can take nearly as long as regular plastic to break down. PLA straws can be composted but this should be done in commercial compost facilities to ensure ideal conditions.
3. Are paper straws biodegradable?
Paper straws are fully biodegradable and compostable. They will begin to break down in about 2-6 weeks. Even if they wind up in the ocean, they’ll begin to break down in as little as three days.
4. Are agave straws biodegradable?
Because agave straws are made of organic materials, they can be consumed by microorganisms and will fully biodegrade in normal landfill conditions in about one-to-five years.
5. Are bamboo straws biodegradable?
Bamboo straws are biodegradable, but the time it takes bamboo straws to biodegrade depends on the type and the environment. Also, if additives were used during the process of manufacturing, it can take longer for them to biodegrade than bamboo straws without additives.
When it's time to dispose of your biodegradable and compostable straws, you can send them to a commercial composting facility if a curbside collection is available in your area. If curbside composting isn't an option, home composting, like using a Lomi electric composter, is recommended. Lomi can turn your biodegradable and compostable straws into nutrient-rich dirt that will help fertilize your plants. Users love how Lomi composting helps divert waste from landfills and nourishes their plants.
Whichever option you choose, any of these products will be a better choice for you and the planet than the plastic alternatives. We hope this helped make it easier to choose your next eco-friendly straw.
Written by: Sarah Kendal