The chosen one | Kanittha Boon/Shutterstock
The chosen one | Kanittha Boon/Shutterstock

Every Type of Straw, Ranked

Not all straws are made equal.

Plastic straws are essentially the devil now. Seattle, New York, and Oakland are among the metropolises that have implemented citywide bans, with more to follow. Big, straw-loving businesses like Whole Foods dropped plastic straws, while Starbucks ditched them in September. The righteous backlash against disposable straws has sparked an ethical dilemma for iced-drink fiends everywhere: Do you sip comfortably through a plastic straw, knowing full well that you're causing damage to the environment? Or do you find an alternative to an apparatus you've relied on your whole life? 

Probably the latter. At this point, even environmentally apathetic people have to switch up their sucking habits: Traditional single-use variety are dropping like, well, seagulls who have eaten plastic straws (seriously, they're really bad for the environment). Luckily, the non-plastic straw options out there are ever-growing. Here are straw types, ranked from worst to best. 

sip lid from starbucks
Sucking beats sipping, sorry Starbucks | Courtesy of Starbucks

11. Sip lids

The concept is great; the reality is not. Lids with a gaping open hole are not spill proof, an unfortunate truth for the clumsy and accident prone. More importantly, they don’t make a satisfying drinking experience. Iced coffee is not made for chugging -- sorry bros -- and the sensation of ice crashing into your teeth is no pleasure. Catch us saying "thank you, next" and toting reusable straws to any and all operations offering such an atrocity. They’re also, you know, still gigantic discs of thick plastic, so it's kind of like they solved one problem by creating another. 

10. Noodle/pasta straw

Who did this?

9. Paper

If damp cardboard is appetizing to you, congrats babe! Live your best, soggiest life. In favor of paper though, it must be said, a swirly colored, old-fashioned straw does have a certain charm that might just make you forget you’re basically eating papery pulp. However, that charm will deteriorate at the same rate as the structure of the straw. But it gets bonus points for practicality. Not everyone can remember to have a reusable straw on their body at all times, and it’s a good thing those people have a better option than the open lids or plastic straws. 

8. Biodegradable and compostable plastic single-use straws

Every so often when you’re in a place where plastic straws are seemingly banned, you’ll stumble upon what appears to be a bundle of regular plastic straws, but upon closer look is labeled with a symbol indicating they are biodegradable or compostable. Old habits die hard, and let’s face it, the biodegradable plastic straw is the most similar to what we know. It’s not the purest option environmentally -- you can’t exactly call yourself your neighborhood coffee shop’s patron saint for using it. Their ability to realistically decompose and degrade has come into question. But it’s maybe a smidge superior to the old ways.

bales of hay for straws
Hay! Been trying to meet you | jlynx/Shutterstock

7. Hay

Hay is, in fact, nature's straw. It's even called straw. But here's the trouble. First, hay is extremely thin, meaning it's more like nature's coffee stirrer, and nobody likes resorting to a coffee stirrer in lieu of a real straw. Second, hay is extremely delicate, and all it takes is a small bend to send a tear ripping up the seam. Unless you've got a side gig in a bluegrass band, you likely don't have extra hay straws just laying around, so you're basically screwed once you leave the coffee shop unless you're extremely careful.

6. Silicone straw

If you think about it, silicone straws should be great. These bendy, rubbery boys let you gnaw without chipping a tooth just like the straws of yore. They’re comfortably flexible, and they’re dishwasher-safe. Unfortunately, silicone takes a major dip in points because of the taste and scent of rubber. Plus, their flaccid texture is not exactly suited to punching through a plastic lid. Attempting to do so is not a struggle you need all of your haters to witness.

5. Glass

You may be under the impression that the whole point of a reusable straw is utility, but the glass straw begs to differ. Even among straws, a seemingly casual way to drink, there is an occasion to be high maintenance. For sipping as smooth as from a long-stemmed wine glass, the straw must be glass, too. No, you can’t stash one in your bag unless you want to stick your hand in a pile of shards when you reach for your wallet. But if you’re in need of an elegant detail for your dinner party or hoping to feel fancy imbibing a cocktail while taking a bath you are in luck.

metal straw
Heavy metal | VDB Photos/Shutterstock

4. Metal

Who doesn’t like a good tooth bang with their morning coffee? If the memory of making out with braces at age 13 is one you hold dear, this is the straw for you. The metal straw currently stands as the most prevalent of all alternatives. Many a cold brew addict can be spotted wearing one around her neck like some kind of charm necklace from the distant, shitty future. You may have even witnessed a loyal user whipping out a grimy pipe cleaner in a restaurant bathroom to scrub on the go. They just might be worth the hype, though -- the more you use them the more you will realize how comfortable they actually are, with the smoothness of glass and the portability of silicone.

starbucks cups with straws
Single-use straws evoke nostalgia already, honestly | Cole Saladino/Thrillist

3. Satan’s single-use straw

The truth hurts (the planet). But the heart wants what it wants.

2. Bamboo

Pros: Bamboo straws are reusable, extremely durable, fully natural, and are way less pricey than metal straws/necklaces. They're made from a highly sustainable and naturally occurring plant. They don't bend, and when they've outstayed their welcome, they can be tied together and fashioned into makeshift pan flutes, which can be used for entertainment or as a source of supplemental income. 
Cons: Panda attacks. 

1. Twizzler

The only true zero waste straw is an edible straw. And whether you’re slurping a Coke at the movie theater, red wine during a night in with the squad, or some weird milkshake concoction you made at 3am, it’s a delicious one. Plus, they make everything kind of taste like strawberries, which gets us one step closer to a utopian society. Unless you hate strawberries, in which case, welcome to hell. Enjoy your plastic.  

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Alex Erdekian is a contributor for Thrillist.