More than 100 million single-use straws—most of them plastic—are used in the United States each day. They end up in waterways, harm sea animals, and break down into microplastics that are becoming ubiquitous on Earth. Numerous places have passed plastic-straw bans as a way to start addressing the global plastic waste problem. Disability advocates, however, have pushed back on bans: They say straws are a necessary, everyday tool for many people, and nonplastic versions may not be suitable substitutes.
Made of stainless steel, aluminum, or even titanium, metal straws have become a popular alternative. They draw some criticism—for having a metallic taste, conducting heat from a hot drink, and clanking against the teeth—but they’re durable to transport and reuse.
Paper drinking straws, which date from the late 1800s, often absorb liquid over time, become mushy, and can leave a taste or fibers in drinks. They’re the most popular throwaway option in places with plastic-straw bans.