Paper straws are more dangerous than you think

Why you should avoid paper straws
Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Pixabay, anncapictures

Paper straws seem less harmful and more environmentally friendly than the now banned plastic straws. However, Öko-Test warns: Some paper straws contain harmful substances, some even dangerous PFAS. This is just one reason why it is best to avoid disposable straws altogether.

Children love to bubble their apple juice spritzer with a straw, and the utensil, which is often called a straw regardless of the actual material used, is also an essential part of many aperitifs. Even though we all know that straws are actually completely unnecessary, they are somehow still fun. Plastic drinking straws have not been around for a good three years – most straws are now made of paper. Various studies have shown in recent years that anyone who relies on paper for their happy bubbles is ingesting a number of harmful substances when drinking.

Now Öko-Test has tested drinking straws made of paper. Here are the results:

Öko-Test warns of harmful substances in paper straws

Öko-Test sent 20 brands to the laboratory and had them tested for many different pollutants. The straw alternatives were also tested for taste and stability.

The good news: Carcinogenic chloropropanols, which were criticized by many authorities in previous studies, are fortunately no longer an issue. Half of the straws in the test are recommended.

The bad news: Öko-Test found environmentally harmful PFAS, increased amounts of benzisothiazolinone (a harmful contact allergen) and aluminum (harmful to the kidneys and nervous system). According to the testers, some straws should not be sold.

Chemicals for eternity in disposable products

Two products in the test (Alouette drinking straws from Rossmann, grade “unsatisfactory” and Hema paper drinking straws, grade “unsatisfactory”) contain per- and polyfluorinated alkyl compounds (PFAS). The substance is supposed to ensure that the products are dirt and water repellent. The problem, however, is that the substances hardly break down when they enter the environment. According to the European Environment Agency (EEA), most PFAS are toxic. Öko-Test food chemist Vanessa Christa says: “Paper drinking straws are supposed to be the more environmentally friendly alternative to plastic straws? Not if they contain PFAS!”

Paper drinking straws: test winners and losers

  • The test winners with “very good” are the Metaltex paper straws, black and white (7 cents per straw) and the straws from Ikea (Förnyande drinking straw, white, grade “very good”, 4 cents per straw).

  • The losers in the test are the Bofa Eco Tableware Bofa Straw, green from Prolink (grade “unsatisfactory”, 7 cents per straw).

Öko-Test paper drinking straws – all test results

Paper drinking straws: often an unstable affair

The feeling of drinking from a paper straw takes some getting used to. The straws quickly become soft, bend and often have an unpleasant taste of their own. The testers can confirm this. Almost all straws taste like paper, according to Öko-Test. Some also smell unpleasant. Another problem: many straws bend quickly – and thus only provide drinking pleasure for a short time.

You can read all the details in the 06/2024 issue of Öko-Test and online at www.ökotest.de.

Good alternatives made of glass and stainless steel

Utopia says: From an ecological point of view, disposable products are generally not a good idea. This also applies to drinking straws, which end up in the trash after just a few minutes. We therefore recommend avoiding disposable straws altogether – for the sake of the environment and your own health. If you really want to bubble, reusable straws made of thick glass or stainless steel are a good idea.

Buy**: You can order stainless steel straws online (for example from Avocadostore or Amazon). You can find glass drinking straws in different lengths and brands in many green shops, for example in Avocadostore.

In a restaurant or café, you should indicate when ordering that you do not want a paper straw.

Read more on Techzle\.com:

  • Only 40 euros: This is how cheap the best pans are at Öko-Test
  • Mineral water in Öko-Test: How Gerolsteiner, Adelholzener and Co. performed
  • Disposable tableware: How sustainable are the alternatives to plastic?

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