Remember the big plastic straw discourse of 2018? Businesses and cities rushed to ban plastic straws due to environmental concerns, but disability advocates pushed back, calling out the practice as fundamentally ableist. In a 2018 article for Sprudge, RJ Joseph wrote, “according to disability rights advocates, banning disposable plastic straws, which were originally created as disability aides, presents unacceptable barriers for people with many disabilities.”
Then the pandemic hit. For now at least, here in 2021 plastic straws are still readily available, but their use is on the decline as large-scale businesses like Starbucks have switched to sippable lids for iced drinks. Plastic straw alternatives are hotter than ever, and according to Popular Science, the stainless steel metal straw is currently the most popular plastic straw alternative. But are metal straws safe? The answer might shock (and disgust) you.
Appalling Impaling Episodes
While metal straws are durable and sturdy, their rigidness and size has been known to cause injury, and even death. 2.8 million metal straws were recalled by Starbucks in 2016 due to injury risk. A four-year-old child sustained serious injuries after running and drinking with a metal straw. A British woman suffered a traumatic brain injury after falling upon her metal straw, piercing her eye and ultimately killing her. It is advised that if using a metal straw, one shouldn't use a lid, be in a car, walking, or in motion—and children shouldn't use them at all.
If the shocking risks of injury or death weren't enough, how about the ick factor? Stainless steel metal straws are perfect vessels for mold and bacteria from food particles left behind—even after thorough rinsing. Metal straws mask what might be growing on the inside, and it's advised that metal straws be soaked and scrubbed with a long brush. Dishwashers aren't enough!
This photo was taken after scrubbing out a metal straw that had gone through several dishwashing cycles.
Using a straw is a bedrock necessity for many, and an avowed preference for even more. We aren't saying don't use straws—far from it! But the truth is there are many alternatives to cold, unyielding metal. Softer, more pliant materials are safer to use, while still delivering dependable beverage delivery and even looking stylish along the way.
2019's Top Listicle Website Thrillist lists bamboo as a better alternative to single-use plastic straws—a hearty reed, endlessly reusable, and stylish (and even considered lucky!). We here are Sprudge prefer the classic Krazy Straw—with all the tight turns and steep slopes and loop-de-loops, you suckle your beverage through a roller coaster of whimsy. And for $12.99 you can get your Krazy Straw personalized with your name (or any word for that matter) to really make a statement. It's also transparent so if there is any build-up—well, you'll see it.
We have the facts and we're voting blech—metal straws can be unsafe, susceptible to icky build-up, and very rarely spell out anyone's name. A bamboo straw makes a great alternative, but that's just the beginning. Straw on.
Zachary Carlsen is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Zachary Carlsen on Sprudge.