Ditch the Disposable Straw
Before the introduction of the disposable plastic straw policy:
straws were disposed on University of Hong Kong campuses each month
Plastic straws are amongst the most-frequently collected items in international beach clean-ups.
These straws, usually made of PP plastic, are highly durable and non-degradable. While PP is recyclable, PP straws are generally not recyclable around the world because their size makes them hard and costly to recycle. Thus, almost all the plastic straws we use end up as rubbish.
Meanwhile, great amounts of plastic straws are used in our daily life. Before the implementation of the policy on disposable plastic straws, we used approximately 84,000 disposable plastic straws per month at HKU!
Skip the Disposable Straw and Choose Reusables!
Although bringing your own straws may seem a bit inconvenient, it’s far more inconvenient for the planet to have millions of plastic straws hanging around for hundreds of years. To help solve the problem, try to drink without straws. You can drink directly from the cup or use a reusable spoon for mixing your drink or poking your lemon in your iced lemon tea. Really need a straw? Try to bring your own reusable one.
Below are some suggestions on how to choose your own reusable straw. There are various reusable straws on the market, but first and foremost, note that reusable doesn’t always equal sustainable. The production, transportation, and disposal of almost all these straws have environmental costs and produce pollutants. To be sustainable, we need to reuse them as much as we can.
Metal and glass straws are the most commonly used reusable straws. Metal straws are more durable, while transparent glass straws are easier to clean. You may also consider a silicone straw, which is bendable and easy to carry around. Bamboo straws are made of heat-treated bamboo stalks, which has the most eco-friendly production and decomposition process of all the straw options. Bamboo, however, is less mildew resistant.
You should also take note of the thermal conductivity of different materials. Straws made of materials with higher thermal conductivity are more susceptible to either hot or cold beverages. So be careful when you use a metal straw with a hot cup of coffee!
There are also some single-use alternatives, for example, single-use paper straws and edible straws. Paper is degradable, but the production of paper also creates air and water pollution. So, try to ditch paper straws as well if you really want to be eco-friendly. Edible straws, such as pasta, are an eco-friendly option, and they are delicious. The only problem with them is that you may eat them up before finishing your drinks!
Tips For Keeping Your Straw Clean
It’s a good idea to carry your straw in a box or bag to keep it hygienic. You can also keep it in your reusable water bottle if the size allows. This will help keep it clean between thorough cleanings. You can also sip some water with your straw before you put it back in the container every time you finish drinking. This will make it easier to clean later, and also help to prevent tooth decay.
Use a soft brush to clean your straw after daily use. The brush should be slightly longer than your straw and narrow enough to pass through it. You can purchase one at Bijas, the SU Co-op Shop, or at LiveZero which is located right off campus in Sai Ying Pun.
If you are using a bamboo straw, occasionally heat it in hot water or put it in vinegar to prevent mould and mildew.
Research by Sustainability Office Intern Bingo Xu 2018