Recently, the public perception of a drinking straw has changed from simple plastic tubes into a major contributor of planet destroying plastic waste.
A straw is a simple drinking tool, but it has had a significant social impact in this digital age. The advancement in technology has enabled the creation of inventions, such as space shuttles, smartphones, and artificial hearts. However, the inventors have not mastered the drinking straw.
Culture and politics have always been some of the determinants of our tendencies, should be waged through the drinking tool, it is worth examining its design came to be. Just like many other designs, the original design of the drinking device is nature itself. The first manifestation of straws was the proboscis of different species of insects, for drinking water from wet soil, rotting fruits, and the sucking of nectar from flowers.
The first people to use drinking straws were Sumerians and Babylonians. Some people believe that the use of drinking straws goes further. However, the true origin is not yet known. The oldest drinking device was found in 3000 BC in Pu-Abi’s tomb, Sumerian Queen of Iraq. The regal drinking device is made of gold. Its length exceeds a meter, has a silver mouthpiece and contains segments of the vibrant blue stone.
At the time, plastic was not yet developed. Therefore, Sumerians had to seal the straw made of gold and stone in tombs to ensure that they were durable. Since some Sumerians who were not of the royal class could not afford straws made of the precious metal and wanted to enjoy beer, they made their straws using hollow reeds. One of the advantages of using the straw made of hollow reed was is that the users do not consume the gunk that is usually produced during fermentation.
After the invention of the drinking devices made of hollow reed, innovators halted. Many years passed before any inventor came up with ideas to update this originally eco straws design. In the meantime, a new almost similar drinking tool emerged among native people of Argentina. The device was known as Bombilla and was commonly used in sieving Mate and other types of tea.
Historians do not know when the device was first invented. However, it is clear that the invention has been in use for centuries now. Some people believe that the straw has existed for thousands of years now. Initially, the Bombilla was made of wood, but the modern design is made from metal. The straw gained popularity in western culture during the 19th century.
At that time, the main ingredient used in the production of drinking straw was ryegrass. Mark Alfred Carleton released a book titled The Small Grains. In his book, the author outlined how straws can be made from ryegrass. The first step involves bleaching. The straws are then sorted by hand, where each stalk is examined. All the imperfect straws are eliminated.
The best ones are then cut. Only the five lower joints of ryegrass are used for drinking purposes. All the sheaths that have been removed are eliminated and straws washed and packed into bundles in readiness for the market. According to the author of the 1920 book, the use of rye to produce straw braids led to a significant reduction in the cost of production and hence some profit for manufacturers.
In his book, the author attributes that to the fact that only a small section of the rye stalk can be used for the drinking devices. While users of straws made of ryegrass found them ideal for drinking purposes, various inventors tried introducing new designs. A businessman called W.H. Brown attempted to patent the Bombilla straws in an effort to capitalize on the invention.
One inventor could not tolerate the taste of ryegrass when enjoying his drink. As a result, he wrapped a pencil using some sheets of paper and applied glued. That’s how an artificial drinking straw came to be. The paper straws gained popularity shortly after. More inventors continued to come up with new designs, including the bendy straws, the crazy straws, and the meat design.
The mass production of plastic drinking straws started during the 1960s and became one of the commonly used designs in the 1980s. The plastic drinking straws gained popularity in restaurants located in different parts of the world. However, it didn’t take long for people to realize the adverse effect that plastic straws had on the environment.
By 2015, the recycle straws faced serious scrutiny from different stakeholders. People realized that the plastic straws they have produced over the years were not degrading and were scarcely recycled. Currently, you can find about 8.3 billion plastic straws on beaches located in different parts of the globe.
Over the years, different jurisdictions around the world have continued to ban the use of plastic straws to conserve the environment. The development has prompted inventors to develop reusable straws. Also, there is a controversy concerning the use of paper straws.
Some manufacturers of paper straws have enjoyed substantial returns after the revival of the straw design. Marvin Stone’s company is one of the beneficiaries of the revival of paper drinking straws. The paper design has been named as the environmentally friendly option as compared to other types of straws.
Some questions have come up as a result of the new development. For example, people have raised questions as to why the use of all-natural, eponymous straw designs has not been revived, which were said to be worth material modification. Other people have also raised a question as to why there is a need to use different types of drinking straws, yet inventors have developed various techniques to filter beer.
There are many benefits of using a drinking straw. However, manufacturers of the drinking devices need to reconsider their products. Some people have also questioned whether there is a need to manufacture straws that can last as long as 400 years, yet they are used for about 15 minutes or ones that can degrade naturally but have a grassy taste when taking a drink.