It's a China thing: Alternatives to plastic straws
By Yang Chengxi

The Chinese government started enforcing strictest-ever restrictions on plastic products on January 1. If you're a beverage lover, it means you'll have to say goodbye to plastic straws. 

The following are the pros and cons of five environmentally friendly alternatives to plastic straws. Can they be just as good?

No. 1: Metal straw

Pros: It can be reused. Once you finish your drink, you can clean it with a little brush.

Con: If you're drinking something very hot, it could burn your lips.

No. 2: Glass straw

Pros: It's also reusable, but unlike a metal straw, it doesn't heat up so easily. Plus, you get to see what you're drinking, which is a big part of the milk tea experience.

Con: It's fragile. If you leave it in your bag and accidentally break it, it might damage your valuables. 

No. 3: Paper straw

Pro: It's not plastic.

Con: After 15 minutes in water, it becomes so soft that it's almost unusable anymore. Better finish up your milk tea fast!

No. 4: Polylactic acid (PLA) degradable straw

Pro: It is what most milk tea shops in China are choosing to replace plastic straws. It is degradable and feels closest to a plastic straw.

Con: This is a very new material, so the supply chain is not stable in China. That means the the prices can fluctuate a lot.

No. 5: Edible straws

Pro: Made of rice, these straws are edible.

Con: You might end up eating it before you finish your milk tea.

By 2025, the end of China's 14th Five-Year Plan period, the country aims to effectively contain plastic pollution. These early inventions might look imperfect, but better solutions will be implemented over time under the incentives of the policy shift. In the latest five-year plan, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment is expected to provide a platform to turn all these green inventions into applications. 

(All images via Soton Daily Necessities Co.)

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at

Search Trends