Those soggy paper straws you hate are Toxic for humans and the environment too

Not only are the straws not biodegradable, they contain harmful forever chemicals, a new study found.

Canada and USA legislated the mandatory adoption of paper straws just in time for new evidence to emerge that the new straws may be just as unsustainable as their plastic predecessors. In December 2022, Environment Canada made it illegal to manufacture or import plastic straws, cutlery and checkout bags, among others. At the end of this year, the sale of those products will also become prohibited.

A new study published in the journal Food Additives and Contaminants examined more than 20 different brands of plant-based straws and found high levels of toxic chemicals in almost all of them.

“These ‘eco-friendly’ plant-based straws are not necessarily a more sustainable alternative to plastic straws,” concluded a research team based at Belgium’s University of Antwerp.

Straws examined by the researchers were largely found to be laden with per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), commonly known as “forever chemicals.”

This not only means that the straws likely aren’t biodegradable, but that they are vectors for chemicals considered hazardous to human and environmental health.

The report noted that even in situations where a plant-based straw doesn’t become litter, it will most likely end up in a landfill where it will spend the rest of its lifecycle “releasing PFAS further into the environment.”

“Straws made from plant-based materials … are often advertised as being more sustainable and eco-friendly than those made from plastic. However, the presence of PFAS in these straws means that’s not necessarily true,” environmental scientist Thimo Groffen said in a press statement.

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