Paper straws are the absolute worst


Graphic design done in illustrator Photo credit: Jacob Collier

Starting school at Chico State marked my initiation to the world of paper straws. I remember the first time I encountered this monstrosity like it was yesterday:

It was a hot summer day during the first week of school. I had just come out of my first journalism class here at Chico State. I was thirsty–it was 90-degrees out and it had been a long, intense class. I walked into a campus store and, after buying my beverage, went to grab a straw only to realize it was made of flimsy paper.

I felt shocked and betrayed. I even asked the cashier if he had any plastic straws, already knowing the answer was no.

But then, a plot twist.

The cashier let me know that they had metal straws. Metal straws. I have never felt more angry and confused. The thought alone of cold, metallic metal clanking against my teeth sent shivers down my spine.

I later found out that this was something that Associated Students at Chico State had enacted into policy. The official statement reads: “Starting April 23, 2018, Chico State became the first CSU campus to eliminate plastic straws. Steel straw kits were also made available to purchase.”

I’m all about saving the planet, but here’s my issue with papers straws: They’re useless. Paper is not known for its durability around water. These straws get soggy within minutes, giving you a sense of urgency when you are trying to enjoy your drink. You can’t just sit for a study session and hydrate because within minutes, that straw will turn to mush. Then, you’ll have to drink it with the top off, and we all know that’s a dangerous game to play if you’re clumsy.

Most arguments for paper straws are that they are eco-friendly and they also #savetheturtles (the catchphrase of every eco-hipster and VSCO girl alike). I hate to break it to you, but paper straws are harmful to the environment as well. The word “biodegradable” is used a lot when talking about paper straws. According to, in order to be considered “biodegradable,” the carbon material of a product has to break down by 60% after 180 days. In real-world situations, the paper could last a lot longer than 180 days.

Well paper straws are recyclable, right? Wrong. According to, most recycling facilities will not accept food-contaminated paper products. Since that paper straw has been sitting in your soda for the past 15 minutes, it’s been absorbing liquids. Let’s be real; most people throw the straw in the trash along with the cup.

So what’s the solution? While I also hate metal straws, even I can’t deny they offer a more permanent solution to the straw problem. The average person isn’t going to carry around a metal straw everywhere they go. Starbucks has found a compromise. They have eliminated plastic straws by implementing new lids that are essentially sippy cup lids. Starbucks plans to eliminate the use of plastic straws by 2020. Does this solve plastic waste? No, of course not. I believe we’ll always have a need for plastic products; we’re too dependent on it. But hey, at least they’re not made out of paper.

Alex Coba can be reached at [email protected] or @ThatOneGuyCoba on Twitter.