A drinking straw is a utensil that is intended to carry the contents of a beverage to one’s mouth.
Straws are commonly made from plastics but environmental concerns and new regulation has led to rise in reusable and biodegradable straws. These straws are often made of silicone, cardboard, or metal.
A straw is used by placing one end in one’s mouth and the other in a beverage. By employing suction, the air pressure in one’s mouth drops causing atmospheric pressure to force the liquid through the straw and into the mouth.
Drinking straws can be straight or have an angle-adjustable bellows segment.
Drinking straws have historically been intended as a single-use product and several countries, regions, and municipalities have banned single-use plastic straws to reduce plastic pollution. Additionally, some companies have even voluntarily banned or reduced the number of plastic straws distributed from their premises.
The first known straws were made by the Sumerians, and were used for drinking beer, probably to avoid the solid byproducts of fermentation that sink to the bottom. The oldest drinking straw in existence, found in a Sumerian tomb dated 3,000 BC, was a gold tube inlaid with the precious blue stone lapis lazuli.
South American natives much preferred using straws when it came to their famous yerba maté tea. The traditional, caffeinated drink is still popular today and is fast becoming a mainstay in cafés across the world. The straw, known as a bombilla, filters out the tea leaves in the drink. They are typically made from metal alloys such as bronze – or precious even metals such as gold and silver.
American Marvin C. Stone patented the modern drinking straw, made of paper, in 1888, to address the shortcomings of the rye grass straw. He came upon the idea while drinking a mint julep on a hot day in Washington, D.C. – the taste of the rye was mixing with the drink and giving it a grassy taste, which he found unsatisfactory. He wound paper around a pencil to make a thin tube, slid out the pencil from one end, and applied glue between the strips. He later refined it by building a machine that would coat the outside of the paper with wax to hold it together, so the glue wouldn’t dissolve in bourbon.
The next major improvement to drinking straws took place over 40 years later in San Francisco. Joseph B. Friedman, inspired by watching his young daughter struggle to drink a tall milkshake through a straight drinking straw, inserted a screw into a straight straw, wrapped dental floss around the ridges, and removed the screw. This straw of the future, the flexible or “bendy”straw, was patented in 1937.
Hospitals were among the first to embrace bendable straws, because they allowed patients to drink while lying in bed. In the decades that followed, the popular paper straw found its way into sodas and milkshakes across America.
Until the early 1960s, paper straws ruled the market. But plastic straws, offering a more durable drinking experience, were hot on their heels – the paper straw had a slow death throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s.
Pre-Internet records are shady on the exact timeline of the invention, but as far as Fun-Time International, the current manufacturer of Krazy Straws, knows, the straws were first mass-produced by 1961. The original was an accident, a glassblower’s mistake, most likely made in Ohio during or before
the 1940s. Kids who got a hold of the balled-up tube of glass saw its potential. They thought it was neat and started drinking out of it.
Paper straws are emerging again as a contender, especially with many countries set to impose an outright ban on plastic straws. Tembo Paper’s straws, for example, prioritise user experience. This means our paper straws are tasteless, odourless, and smooth to the touch. We are able to manufacture various types of straws such as the classic straight straw, the U-shape straw and the telescopic straw.
Edible straws have been made out of materials like rice, seaweed, rye, and confectioneries (such as candy).
The largest drinking straw sculpture (supported) is made from 168,037 straws, and was achieved by Von Wong (Canada) and Zero Waste Saigon (Vietnam) in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, on 22 January 2019.
The longest straw chain measured 11,298 m (37,066 ft 10 in) using 58,469 drinking straws. The chain was made by Petru Pogonaru, Marcu Cristi and 27 Students (all Romania) at Dacia Square, Buzau, Romania, on 10 July 2008.