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7 Reasons Why Plastic Straws Are Not Recyclable

Polluted oceans
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Plastic straws are the most commonly used drinking straws throughout the world. They are undoubtedly a common sight in our lives. However, their negative environmental impact is undeniable for marine life and human beings. They are cost-effective and convenient to use. But they are non-recyclable, and lots of harmful effects of these straws make them undemanding and uneffective for a healthy environment. They cannot be recycled like other biodegradable straws. Recycling facilities face a noticeable challenge while recycling them for several reasons. 

Let us satisfy your curiosity if you want to know what makes plastic straws non-recyclable and harmful to marine life. This article is all about the reasons that make plastic straws non-recycle. We will also discuss alternative solutions to plastic straws that benefit our environment.

7 Reasons Why Plastic Straws are Non-Recyclable

Plastic straws are less preferable straws because they cannot be recycled properly. Let us cover the main reasons that affect the recyclability of these straws.

1- Complex  Chemical Composition:

Their chemical composition greatly affects the recyclability of plastic drinking straws. The main chemical present in the plastic is polypropylene.  Propylene makes plastic straws amazingly durable and resistant to chemicals and heat, preventing them from sogginess in drinks and beverages. However, it also makes it less recyclable. 

In addition to polypropylene, plastic straws may contain various additives to improve their performance and appearance, such as plasticizers, colorants, and stabilizers. These additives can make the recycling process more complex and may even negatively affect the quality of the recycled material. For example, lots of additives can degrade or leach out of the plastic during recycling, affecting the properties of the recycled material.

2- Material

Most plastic straws are composed of non-recyclable materials. These materials also reduce their recyclability. Such materials often have high melting points and require much energy to recycle. Thus, they contribute to its challenges in recycling and remain in the oceans and seas for a long time.

3-Lightweight ness of Plastic Straws

The lightweight nature of plastic straws contributes to why they are generally not easily recyclable. This is because their small size and lightweight can make them difficult to collect and sort at recycling facilities, as they can easily get lost among other materials or be blown away in the wind during collection. Additionally, their light weight means they do not yield as much recyclable material as larger plastic items, making them less economically viable to recycle.

4- Contamination Issues:

Contamination issues are among the dominant factors affecting the recyclability of plastic straws. The plastic straw can be easily contaminated with different substances throughout its lifespan. These substances may include liquids, oils, food residues, and others. These reduce the recyclability of the plastic drinking straw.

Moreover, the contaminated plastic straws may also affect the machinery during recycling.

Thus, recycling facilities need help successfully process the contaminated plastic drinking straws. It eventually ends up in lower recycling rates of these drinking straws. In most cases, they are even rejected for recycling. Reducing the contamination of plastic straws is vital to increase its recyclability rate to a certain level.

5- Small Size & Shape:

The small size and shape of plastic straws contribute immensely to their non-recyclability. They are small, so they may need to be appropriately handled during recycling. They may also cause contamination because the machinery may fail to separate them from other materials efficiently. 

They may also tangle in the cracks of the sorting equipment. It can slow down or stop the recycling operation due to the jams of recycling machines. Additionally, the compact shape of a plastic straw also affects the recycling process. It is hard to clean the residues of other oil droplets from the compact-shaped plastic straw. It directly reduces the recycling rate, makes them hard to recycle, and makes their presence in the oceans and seas for longer, which is unsafe for marine life.

Plastic straws are small and lightweight, making them more prone to getting lost or mixed in with other materials during recycling. Their thin, tubular shape can also cause them to become tangled or stuck in recycling machinery, damaging equipment and disrupting the recycling process.

6- Quality Degradation:

Plastic straws are considered non-recyclable because of the degradation of quality during their recycling process. Actually, plastics are long chains of polymers that are linked together. The polymer chains become shorter when recycling plastics when the plastic straws are recycled. It reduces the quality of the plastic straws, resulting in their degradation.

The quality of plastic straws may also degrade due to several environmental impacts, such as exposure to heat and sunlight. This causes alternations in the molecular structure of the plastic straws. Actually, when these degraded straws are recycled, they may need to be appropriately recycled. This results in the production of low-quality plastic straws. 

7- Lack of Market Demand:

The main reason plastic straw items are non-recyclable is their reduced market demand. The market mainly focuses on the quality of the materials. Actually, this is because the market finds them suitable financially. However, when the plastics are recycled, their quality decreases automatically. It results in a lack of market demand because people must pay attention to recycled material. Thus, recycling of plastics is not considered a good idea.

Why are Biodegradable Straws Better than Plastic Straws?

Biodegradable straws are far better than non-biodegradable and non-recyclable plastic drinking straws. The reasons are discussed below.

  • Biodegradable straws are better than plastic straws and other harmful items because of their excellent environmental impact. They are biodegradable, sustainable, and compostable. Actually, they can be degraded easily and converted to compost under suitable conditions. It reduces carbon footprints. In contrast, plastic straws are non-biodegradable, non-compostable, and non-sustainable, causing massive pollution. 
  • Biodegradable materials are manufactured using renewable and natural sources and do not have any health risks. Actually, they lack toxic materials. Plastic drinking straws are composed of microplastic and other poisonous materials, reducing their value and making them risky for health.
  • Biodegradable straws promote sustainable waste management practices because they don’t cause landfills and never accumulate due to the degradation process. On the other hand, single-use plastic straws never undergo degradation and cause landfills.
  • Besides being harmless to land, biodegradable straws are less toxic and risky to wildlife. They don’t get stuck in their throat after ingestion. Plastic straws can cause death to the fish even if they ingest them unintentionally.
  • Biodegradable straws are non-toxic and meet the regulatory compliances set by the government. However, plastic straws are banned in various countries because they cannot meet regulatory compliance requirements.
  • Being safe to use by people of all ages, biodegradable straws meet the market demands. Plastic straws are less demanding in all ways.

Some Alternative Solutions to Non-Recyclable Plastic Straws

Numerous alternative solutions exist to non-recyclable plastic straws, including paper and bamboo straws. Let us discuss some commonly used biodegradable alternatives to single-use plastic straws.

1- Paper Straws:

Paper straws are an excellent alternative to other plastic straws. These are manufactured using food-grade paper that is entirely safe for use. They are often coated with a safe material to enhance their water-resistant ability and boost their durability. Here are the common advantages of paper straws over plastic drinking straws.

  • They are manufactured using renewable resources, including trees. Thus, they are a sustainable option with no health risks.
  • They are biodegradable and compostable. It reduces their harmful environmental impacts.
  • They are a hygienic option because of the lack of toxic chemicals.
  • They are less brittle and more durable than plastic straws.

2- Reed Straws:

Reed straws are also a great alternative to plastic straws. As the name suggests, they are made up of reed stems. They are hollow and offer high rigidity. Here are a few reasons to consider reed straws better than paper straws.

  • Reed straws are manufactured from renewable sources and are eco-friendly. They offer outstanding biodegradability and sustainability compared to plastic straws.
  • Reed straws are typically more durable than paper straws, which can become soggy and break down quickly in liquids. Reed straws hold better shape and withstand prolonged use, making them suitable for various beverages and applications.
  • They are sturdy and can effectively withstand all types of temperatures. Thus, they offer more longevity than single-use plastic drinking straws.
  • They are safe and stylish alternatives to plastic straws because they are aesthetically appealing and cannot create health risks.
  • They come in various sizes and are suitable for beverages and smoothies.
  • Reed straws can be customized in length, diameter, and appearance to meet specific needs and preferences. They can also be dyed or decorated for aesthetic purposes.

3- Sugar Cane Straws:

Sugar Cane straws are ideal and eco-friendly alternatives to plastic straws. They are manufactured using sugarcane fibers. They are recognized as binders and bagasse. They contain other ingredients such as corn starch, antioxidant citric acid, bovine gelatin food flavoring concentrate, etc.

  • Sugar cane straws are made from natural sources and are biodegradable and compostable. Thus, they reduce environmental waste and pollution.
  • Sugarcane straws are generally nontoxic and do not contain harmful chemicals or additives. This feature makes them safe with food and beverages for everyday use.
  • They are more functional and sturdy compared to plastic straws. Additionally, they maintain shape and never become soggy in drinks.
  • They are entirely safe for both environment and health as they are manufactured using renewable sources.
  • Sugarcane straws are a more versatile option than the plastic straws. These straws can be composted with other organic waste. This helps reduce waste sent to landfills and promotes soil health.

4- Bamboo Straws:

Bamboo straws are the best choice when choosing an alternative to single-use plastic drinking straws. They are made of bamboo, considered one of the most sustainable plants globally. 

  • Bamboo drinking straws are a biodegradable and sustainable option. They don’t contain any harmful chemicals and are safer for the environment.
  • They offer excellent durability and can withstand all types of drinks with hot and cold temperatures. They don’t become soggy and remain intact in the drinks for a long time.
  • Bamboo straws are a sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to plastic straws, offering several benefits in renewability, biodegradability, and cultural significance. 
  • They come in various sizes and diameters. Actually, they can be ideally used for all types of smoothies. They are also suitable for all kinds of events and occasions.
  • Being aesthetically appealing, they enhance the overall presentation of the drinks and beverages. 

5- PLA Straws:

Pla straws are also the best biodegradable straws and can be an alternative to plastic drinking straws. They are made of corn oil or plant starches. They can decompose quickly and are a sustainable option.

  • Pla straws offer greater environmental sustainability than traditional plastic straws. They reduce carbon footprints and biodegrade quickly under certain conditions.
  • They don’t contain harmful chemicals such as BPA. They are made from natural sources and are safer in every way.
  • PLA is biodegradable and compostable under industrial composting conditions. When exposed to the right environmental conditions, it can break down into natural components, reducing its impact.
  • They are durable and can withstand the drinks without changing shape all day.
  • They are a sustainable option and comply with regulatory compliances. 

Where can you buy some alternative straws rather than purchasing non-recycled plastic straws?

Many challenges are associated with their recycling, including their small size, material composition, contamination, cost, and alternatives available. As a result, they are generally not considered recyclable items and are instead being phased out in favor of more sustainable options.

If you prefer a biodegradable and sustainable alternative to non-recyclable plastic drinking straws, you need clarification. The reason is that a wide range of wholesalers or suppliers offer a variety of recyclable straws, such as paper straws, bamboo straws, reed straws, etc. 

Homestraw provides the world’s best biodegradable straws at competitive ranges. We have worked for many years to provide safe drinking straws for our environment. Our straws are manufactured carefully in a safe environment using renewable sources with outstanding recyclability. Check out our drinking straws for your homes and restaurants to find an unforgettable experience.


It is concluded from the above-discussed information that different reasons make plastic straws non-recyclable. These mainly include their complex composition, contamination issues, small size & shape, quality degradation, and lack of market demand. You can use alternatives such as sugar cane, Pla, paper, bamboo, and reed straws for a better experience.

Choosing a suitable supplier is compulsory, so check their websites to find products. In this case, no one can beat the quality and other services of Homestraw, a top supplier providing supreme quality drinking straws. 


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