Evaluation of Paper Straws versus Plastic Straws: Development of a Methodology for Testing and Understanding Challenges for Paper Straws

Joseph N. Gutierrez, Aidan W. Royals, Hasan Jameel, Richard A. Venditti, Lokendra Pal


New alternatives to plastic straws are being considered due to consumer demands for sustainability and recent changes in government policies and regulations, such as bans on single-use plastic products. There are concerns regarding paper straw quality and stability over time when in contact with beverages. This study evaluated the performance and properties of commercially available paper straws and their counterpart plastic straws in various intended applications. The physical, mechanical, and compositional characteristics, as well as the liquid interaction properties of the straws, were determined. The paper straws were composed mainly of hardwood fibers that were hard sized with a hydrophobic sizing agent to achieve a contact angle of 102° to 125°. The results indicated that all the evaluated paper straws lost 70% to 90% of their compressive strength after being in contact with the liquid for less than 30 min. Furthermore, the paper straws absorbed liquid at approximately 30% of the straw weight after liquid exposure for 30 min. Increased liquid temperatures caused lower compressive strengths and higher liquid uptake in the paper straws. This report provides directions and methods for testing paper straws and defines current property limitations of paper straws relative to plastic straws.


Paper straws; Plastic straws; Tensile strength; Compressive strength; Longevity

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Welcome to BioResources! This online, peer-reviewed journal is devoted to the science and engineering of biomaterials and chemicals from lignocellulosic sources for new end uses and new capabilities. The editors of BioResources would be very happy to assist you during the process of submitting or reviewing articles. Please note that logging in is required in order to submit or review articles. Martin A. Hubbe, (919) 513-3022, hubbe@ncsu.edu; Lucian A. Lucia, (919) 515-7707, lucia-bioresources@ncsu.edu URLs: bioresourcesjournal.com; http://ncsu.edu/bioresources ISSN: 1930-2126