Are paper straws really healthy and sustainable?


Paper straws emerged to replace plastic straws; however, they are just as harmful.

Single-use plastic straws disappeared from the map thanks to the Waste Law 7/2022. Apparently, the most sustainable and environmentally friendly solution was to make them from recyclable materials or at least take less time to biodegrade.

However, according to one study, straws made of paper are likely to be just as harmful, mainly to health. Moreover, not all straws end up being recycled, and their production differs from being sustainable. The study was conducted at the University of Antwerp. After analyzing 39 brands of straws, they found that paper straws are far from healthy. 

The reality of paper straws

Straws made of paper, bamboo, glass, stainless steel, and plastic were tested. They found that 69% of the straws contained different concentration rates of PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a series of synthetic chemical compounds). This substance accumulates in the body and in the environment; they are related to health problems such as liver damage, thyroid disease, obesity, fertility problems, and cancer. 

The study found that paper straws had higher PFAS (90%); bamboo straws had 80%; plastic straws had 75%. The smallest quantity was found in glass straws, only 40%.

For this reason, the European authorities encourage the elimination of PFASs in all products manufactured within the European Union. However, this is not the case in several countries, which are the most common producers of this type of product.

On the other hand, the manufacture of this type of straw requires a large amount of water and energy, despite the fact that they are made from agricultural residues or by-products such as sugar cane or rice. Therefore, the most sensible thing to do is to make them disappear to avoid the Greenwashing that goes along with their use.

Finally, the Universidad Internacional Iberoamericana (International Iberoamerican University) (UNIB) offers the Master in Environmental Management and Audits.

Source: Neither good for your health nor for the environment: the risks of paper straws


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