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Plastic Straws vs Paper Straws: Should Your Business Switch to Paper?

Plastic Straws vs Paper Straws: Should Your Business Switch to Paper?

Paper straws are becoming more and more popular as the trend toward sustainability grows, and plastic straws become the target of increasing government regulations. If your business is considering a switch from plastic straws to a more environmentally friendly option, paper straws could be the right solution for you.

Why Are Plastic Straws Being Banned?

Plastic straws are being banned across multiple cities because they do not break down in a landfill and are a threat to the environment, wildlife, and human health.

Although recyclable, plastic straws are not typically accepted by curbside recycling programs. Municipalities that do accept plastic straws for recycling, may have a hard time separating them due to sorting inefficiencies.

Even when accepted, most plastic straws will not make it to recycling centers because people discard them as trash.

As a result, plastic straws end up as landfill waste or pollution. Plastic straws can take up to 500 years to break down; even then, they do not fully decompose.

When plastics break down, they break up into smaller pieces over time. Eventually, plastics break into microplastics (tiny pieces of plastic).

Microplastics contaminate our ecosystems. Animals, such as fish, can mistake microplastics as food and eat them. Not only is it harmful for fish and other animals to eat plastics, but when humans eat the fish, we may also be consuming microplastics as a result.

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the negative effects of plastic products on the environment and human health, and are demanding more sustainable options.

One of the most common environmentally friendly alternatives to single-use plastic straws are paper straws.

Paper straws break down into organic materials leaving a smaller footprint on the earth.

Advantages of Paper Straws

Eco-Friendly Benefits of Paper Straws

If you are looking to display your sustainability efforts, using paper straws can make it obvious to your customers that you consider the full product lifecycle and are making an effort to leave a smaller footprint on the earth.

Are paper straws compostable?

Yes, paper straws are compostable at commercial facilities.

Pro Tip: What does compostable mean?

A product is compostable if it can break down into CO2, water, and organic materials within six months of beginning the composting process.

How do I know if my straw is certified compostable?

Look for third-party certifications such as the Cedar Grove Composter ® approved seal.Paper Straw Top View

Cedar Grove is a commercial composter that provides third-party certifications to products. To receive the Cedar Grove Certification, a product is tested against the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards and proven to compost at a compost facility and/or at a home composting bin.

Find out more about which paper straws are Cedar Grove Certified Compostable.

If you are not sure if your paper straw is certified compostable, reach out to an EBP Foodservice Specialist.

Are paper straws recyclable?

Paper straws are recyclable. Always check with your commercial hauler to see if they are currently accepting paper straws in your area.

Pro Tip: What does recyclable mean?

Products which can be collected, separated, or recovered from the waste stream are considered recyclable.

Comparable Features

When considering the switch from plastic straws to paper straws, understanding the comparable features of paper straws can help you understand if paper straws are a viable replacement option for your operation.

Paper v Plastic Straw side by side


Paper straws are available in multiple lengths comparable to plastic straws.

Some paper straw lengths include:


Exact size may vary by manufacturer.


To accommodate various product offerings from smoothies to cocktails, paper straws are offered in various diameters comparable to plastic straws.

Paper straws come in:Paper Straws with Coffee Cups


Exact diameter will vary by manufacturer.


Depending on the manufacturer, paper straws can be available in basic, patterned or printed colors.

Colored straws use water-based ink which will not hurt the environment when composted.

Do the colors of paper straws bleed?

Colored paper straws do not bleed.

Wrapped or Unwrapped

Like plastic straws, paper straws are available wrapped or unwrapped.

Wrapped paper straws are a good option if you need to replace a wrapped plastic straw at a self-service station or in another situation in which you will need a straw to stay sanitary.

Disadvantages of Paper Straws

Paper straws will not offer the same price, performance, or user experience as plastic straws.

Juice with Paper StrawsCost

Paper straws currently cost more than plastic straws.

Not only is the initial cost of paper straws currently higher, but because paper straws are not as durable or long lasting as plastic straws, it often causes customers to ask for more than one straw during their visit.

Performance / Durability

The durability of a paper straw will depend on the manufacturer, but it is less than plastic straws.

The functionality of paper straws will be reduced the longer they are left to sit in a liquid.

Pro Tip: Similar to plastic straws, paper straws should not be used with hot liquids. Hot liquids will cause a paper straw to lose its shape faster.

User Experience

Although still useable when soft, consumers often negatively react to a soggy straw.

The longer a paper straw is left to sit in a liquid, the more it will start to break down.

Who Should Use Paper Straws?

Paper straws are a great option:

  • If your business is affected by the rising number of plastic straw bans
  • If your business is looking to meet consumer demands for more sustainable options
  • If your business is looking to align with sustainability trends

Final Thoughts

Whether you are switching because of shifts in consumer demand, local regulations, or aligning with sustainability trends, Imperial Dade can help you choose the best straw for your business.

Imperial Dade locations have a large selection of green foodservice products to satisfy your facility’s needs and budget. We offer a wide selection of disposable foodservice products whether you’re located in the United States, Puerto Rico, or the Caribbean.

Streamlining eco-friendly foodservice alternatives into your business can be complex. Let an Imperial Dade Foodservice Specialist review your current foodservice program and recommend products that will help you be more sustainable while balancing performance, look, and price.