STRAWS: The straw in the 19th century was a cut and dried rye stalk. From there, it expanded to “artificial” varieties, which were made of paper covered in paraffin and were created by winding said paper around a cylindrical object.
These straws were single-use, “guaranteed” to be free of taste and odor and therefore not have an impact on the taste of the beverage. Soda fountains became popular as more people lived in city environments and had limited opportunity to leave the home and socialize. For men, the destination was the saloon. However, women were fighting for freedom in a number of ways — and that made soda fountains an extremely popular destination once they came into being.
However, straws were key to fighting the disease that was prevalent in these environments with closer living spaces and limited means to clean the glasses used at such public eateries and establishments.
By the late 1890’s, cities were requiring the use of straws. The straws stayed the same in basic shape, length and color until the 1930’s, although in that time frame, focus was taken on using straws that were wrapped to prevent germs when people chose their own and eventually, straw dispensers were invented to minimize consumer contact other than with the straw that individual would then use.
McDonald’s would be key in the growing popularity of the plastic straw.
In 1950, the world was producing 1.5 million tons of plastic. In a single decade, that amount increased tenfold.
Today, estimates of plastic produced each year are roughly at 320 million.
In July 2018, Seattle, Wash., became the largest US city to ban plastic straws. Washington, D.C. has also made the move to ban plastic straws. A potential fine of $100 to as much as $800 can be levied against businesses still using the products after July 1, 2019.
Starbucks has pledged to phase out plastic straws by 2020, while McDonalds has announced they are phasing out the products at Ireland locations. The movement is gaining traction, and the life cycle of the straw has seemingly come full circle.