food Pasta Straws, The Nearly Perfect Solution To Our Plastic Problem
As human beings with basic needs, many of us are constantly striving for ways to add more carbs into our diets. It’s a lifestyle that has spawned many memes, stylized infographics for Pinterest boards, and the terrifying Never Ending Pasta Pass from Olive Garden. But did anyone see the pasta straw coming?
In a continuous effort to reduce our carbon footprint, an easy foray into sustainability remains the reduction of plastic straws, as the U.S. alone throws away roughly 500 million of them a year.
“The outsized attention we’re able to give to straws is probably because straws are so small,” said Emily Bachman, a compost program manager for GrowNYC, a New York-based food waste and sustainability program. “It’s easy to see that single-use plastic straws are a problem, and it’s relatively easy to do something about them.”
In 2019, seven states have written at least partial plastic straw bans into their legislation. Some mainstream replacements include cardboard straws — already out of the public’s favor because a soggy vessel isn’t ideal — and metal straws, which are beginning to get flack for their non-eco-friendly production and the potential danger they pose to people with disabilities who rely on straws.
This is where bucatini pasta ― or a slightly bigger version of it, more like a long ziti ― comes into play. Bucatini has long been the favored child of the pasta world, and with its durable, tubular shape, it’s perfect for catching every bit of sauce.
And now, you can use it to slurp down your favorite beverage.
With a quick snap, the size of the straw becomes customizable. In a cold beverage, the straws won’t go limp for “at least one hour,” according to pasta straw producer Maxim Gelmann, CFO of Stroodles, a U.K.-based pasta straw startup. Hot beverages are not recommended, given that they’ll actually cook the straw.
With just two main ingredients, flour and water, Bachman considers pasta straws to be an exceptional alternative to paper and compostable plastic straws. They create much less processing output (aka a smaller environmental impact) and require the least amount of ingredients to manufacture of all the compostable, single-use straws.
There are some drawbacks, however. One is the fact that pasta straws, like metal straws, are hard and unbendable, which isn’t ideal for people with disabilities who have limited mobility and need flexibility. Two, Joanna Carpenter, a beverage consultant, said she can’t get past the texture. Her solution for the starchy aftertaste (which comes from the natural disintegration of the carb) is to counteract it with a lot of bubbles. The ideal drink? A highball.
“The carbonation tends to balance out the mealy feel of it,” Carpenter told HuffPost. High acidity is another trait she seeks out in a drink fit for a compostable noodle. Your cold brew habit is a great vehicle for testing out this carb-forward trend.
Though pasta straws can be found en masse in coffee shops and bars around the globe, with the boon of a trend comes commercial commoditization, as a few pasta straw manufacturers have popped onto the market over the last year or so. The Amazing Pasta Straw, based in the U.S., and Planet Straw, a South African company, are just a couple.
Yes, this item is already available in bulk at your favorite grocery store, so it’s cheap and accessible. While a box of regular pasta runs about $3, a box of specialty pasta straws, like Stroodles, costs around $16, with the promise that “the strongest and best ones are carefully and manually selected,” Gelmann said.
Pasta is an easily compostable item and will break down, along with other well-maintained food scraps, in as little as three months (plastic straws take an estimated 200 years).
“From that perspective, anything that’s compostable is better, because even if it’s littered, it’ll do less harm in nature than its fossil-fuel derived alternatives,” Bachman said. She also noted that if you’re taking a pasta straw-equipped drink to go and throw it in the trash, along with your cup, the potential environmental impact is lost.
“Increasing use of compostable single-use products without building the infrastructure to sort, transport and compost that material is a waste,” she said of adding pasta straws to the 40% of total food supply Americans throw away each year, which contribute to about 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations report.
These edible straws may be a pathway to awareness and education, but at the crux of it all is a much-needed shift to fuel these innovations in our drinking habits toward more behavioral change and environmental passion. There’s no magic fix, but the prospect of what new alternative is being cooked up next is promising.