SILVER

Sip Or Suck: Which Straw Is The Best?

Sip Or Suck is an experimental project to see which straw is the best environmentally and which straw is most preferred by people. Throughout the experiment we tested 60 people by asking them which straw they preferred.
Carley Doering Nomi Huszti
Grade 6

Hypothesis

 

Carley’s Hypothesis 

People will prefer silicone straws.

Rationale: People will like the soft, chewable texture of the straw because people like to chew on straws.  They are also bendy (flexible) and can create a pleasant sensation in the mouth.

Naomi’s Hypothesis

People will prefer metal 

straws.

Rationale: Metal straws will keep the cool temperature, so the water will taste fresh. Since metal straws are easy to clean, there will not be taste residues (from soap, bleach etc.).

 

 

Research

No Straw 

Pros

Cons

Other information

  • Cheapest option
  • Better for our ecosystem
  • No need to clean a straw
  • No change the taste 
  • Allows bigger gulps 
  • People can get wrinkles around their mouths from drinking from straws, known as “smokers’ lips”
  • Drinking through a straw can cause bloating and excess gas
  • Lipstick stains
  • A cup’s rim is not perfectly sanitary (sometimes in restaurants)
  • When sipping sugary drinks without a straw, the sugar can damage teeth enamel
  • Some thick drinks (such as smoothies) are hard to drink without a straw
  • People with disabilities may need a straw to drink
  • People with braces may need straws so as to avoid contact of certain liquids with braces

 

  • Before the mid-1950s, drinking without a straw was the norm
  • Straws started gaining in popularity in the mid-19th century because of the rise of fast food, and availability of technology to produce plastic straws cheaply

 

 

 

 

 

 

Metal Straw

 

Pros

Cons

Other information

  • Come in many colors, widths and lengths 
  • Easy to clean and dishwasher safe
  • Sturdy metal material makes it more durable and portable
  • Less waste in landfills
  • Easy to take care of and to carry  around
  • Retains the temperature of the drink
  • Elegant and attractive
  • Can be used to drink juice directly from fruit
  • Very expensive
  • Have to be kept sanitized
  • Hard on teeth when people bite down/can chip teeth 
  • Some people do not like the aftertaste of metal
  • Not bendy and can jab gums
  • A woman died after impaling herself with a metal straw
  • React to the temperature of beverage
  • The very first straws (called drinking tubes) were made from precious metals. 
  • They were used by Ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia, in 3000 B.C. to drink beer from large jars; 
  • The long tubes were used to reach the liquid sitting below byproducts at the bottom of the jar.

 Silicone Straw

Pros

Cons

Other information

  • Does not leach chemicals 
  • Soft/chewable/doesn’t damage teeth
  • Available in different lengths, widths, colours
  • Easy to clean (dishwasher)
  • Durable and usable in temperatures up to 500 degrees 
  • Does not change temperatures
  • Recyclable
  • Free of carcinogens 
  • Some silicone can be burnt into biodegradable ash
  • Can be cut with scissors to change sizes
  • Very expensive
  • Have to clean after use
  • Need to be recycled separately from other recyclables 
  • Some people don’t like the texture
  • Usually thick and let too much liquid in
  • Mostly not biodegradable
  • Some people don't like the bend and flexibility
  • Can collapse when a drink is thick
  • Silicone belongs to the rubber family
  • Silicone materials are made from the element “Silicon”
  • Silicone does not have a distinctive taste
  • Silicone straws are not always made from 100% silicone, and vary in quality and durability depending on the grade and quantity of silicone used by the manufacturer

 

 

Corn Straw 

Pros

Cons

Other information

  • Better than petroleum packaging
  • Compostable
  • Not easily distinguishable from plastic in terms of look and taste
  • A renewable resource that can be turned back into fertilizer
  • Many corn straws will end up in landfills
  • Takes a lot of oxygen to decompose 
  • Some people are allergic to corn
  • Turning food into a straw when many people in the world are starving 
  • The process of making a corn straw uses more nitrogen fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides 
  • Corn plastic is made out of polylactic acid (PLA)
  • Corn plastic has been around for 20 years, but was too expensive until 1989 when a chemist Patrick Gruber invented a way to make it more efficiently 
  • Working with his wife, also a chemist, he created his first prototype PLA products on his kitchen stove 
  • In the beginning, it cost $200 to make a pound of PLA; now it’s less than $1

 

Paper Straw

 

Pros

Cons

Other information

  • Relatively cheap to make
  • Can easily be printed with food safe inks
  • The most environmental option: usually compostable and recyclable 
  • Breaks down quickly when composted
  • Trees are cut down to make paper straws
  • Unravel and melt, get soggy
  • Change the taste of beverage
  • Colour can leach into drinks 
  • Quality is not consistent among brands 
  • Some contain beeswax
  • Paper sticks to lips
  • Sometimes not recyclable/compostable: cannot be composted or recycled in Calgary!
  • Paper straws were patented by 1888 by Marvin Stone, an American inventor
  • Used to have a layer of paraffin to keep the paper from becoming soggy

Plastic (Disposable) Straw 

Pros

Cons

Other information

  • The cheapest to produce
  • Convenient and easy to use
  • Does not change the taste of beverages
  • Made of polypropylene which degrades slowly: takes 200 years to break down
  • Harmful to marine life: it is projected that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish
  • Contains carcinogens Leaches chemicals 
  • Made from petroleum (non-renewable resource)
  • Cracks in extreme temperatures
  • Making plastic products releases toxic fumes
  • The use of plastic straws grew in the 1960s and reached peak popularity in the 1980s, when new technologies enabled cheap mass production 
  • Awareness of the danger of plastic straws to the environment started rising in the 2010s 
  • In August 2015, a marine biologist Christine Figgener released a video of her research team pulling a plastic straw out of a sea turtle’s nostril 
  • The video went viral and spurred many plastic straw ban proposals

RESTAURANT INTERVIEWS

 

  • A&W
    • Paper straws
    • Eliminated 82 million plastic straws out of concern for environment

 

  • Peter’s
    • Polylactic acid (corn) straws 
    • More expensive than paper but no customer complaints

 

  • Lake Louise
    • Paper straws
    • All compostable utensils but nowhere to compost

 

Why use a straw?

  • Dentists suggest using straws when drinking sugary drinks to protect the teeth enamel (especially with braces). 
  • When drinking bubble tea, you need a straw to suck up the bubbles.
  • With no straw, slushies will spill everywhere!

 

 

 

Variables

 

Independent (Manipulated) Variable

  • Type of straw (corn/PLA; paper; silicone; metal) or no straw

 

Dependent (Responding) Variable

  • People’s preference (rank order)

 

Controlled Variables

  • Liquid used (water)
  • Temperature of water (room temperature)
  • Type of cup (glass)
  • Same amount of water
  • Drink from straws in same order

 

Procedure

  1. Pour filtered room temperature water into a glass cup until it is 3/4 full for each participant.
  2. Place one of each kind of straw into each glass.
  3. Ask people to take a sip of water from each straw one at a time then straight out of the cup with no straws.
  4. Ask participants to lay out the straws and glass in front of them in order from left to right, favorite to least favorite.
  5. Record information on data chart. n=60
  6. Clean the silicone and metal straws using the Alberta health three step process: hot soapy water,  hot water, bleach, then air dry, or else sanitized in dishwasher.
  7. Use paper straws to start fire for warmth because the City  of Calgary says not to recycle or compost them. Put corn straws in garbage.

Observations

96.67% of participants said they would give up plastic straws. 

Male participants generally liked no straw and paper more, while female participants preferred metal and silicone straws more. With corn straws male and female genders both liked them almost identically the same. 

Between kids and adults, kids preferred silicone straws way more than adults. Kids also preferred metal more. Adults seemed to like no straw, corn and paper more than kids

Corn for adult preference (but it isn’t socially or environmentally best, so we recommend paper if you need disposable, like at a restaurant. Children preferred metal (carry your own)!

Either metal or silicone if you are willing to carry your own (only 56.67% of participants were willing) silicone is slightly better overall but people preferred metal.

Straw Testing Data

 

Exhibitors will complete the following chart according to the Participant’s opinion:

 

Participant #

Sex

(M or F or O)

Age (Adult or Child)

Rank Order: Corn

Rank Order: Paper

Rank Order: Silicone

Rank Order: Metal

Rank Order: No Straw

Would you give up plastic straws?

Would you carry your own straw?

1

M

A

1

2

5

4

3

Yes

Yes

2

F

A

3

5

4

2

1

Yes

No

3

F

A

1

3

5

2

4

Yes

Yes

4

F

A

4

5

1

3

2

Yes

Yes

5

M

A

4

3

5

2

1

Yes

No

6

F

C

3

5

1

4

2

Yes

No

7

F

C

3

5

2

1

4

Yes

Yes

8

F

C

2

3

4

5

1

Yes

No

9

M

A

2

3

4

5

1

Yes

Yes

10

F

C

5

3

4

2

1

Yes 

Yes

11

M

C

3

5

4

2

1

Yes 

Yes

12

M

A

3

5

4

2

1

Yes 

Yes

13

M

A

5

3

2

4

1

Yes

No

14

F

A

3

2

4

5

1

Yes

No

15

F

A

1

2

4

5

3

Yes

No

 

16

F

A

2

4

3

5

1

Yes

Yes

17

M

C

2

4

5

3

1

Yes

No

18

M

A

3

5

4

2

1

Yes

Yes

19

F

A

3

5

4

1

2

Yes

Yes

20

M

C

3

4

5

2

1

Yes

Yes

21

F

C

4

2

3

1

5

Yes

Yes

Participant #

Sex

(M or F or O)

Age (Adult or Child)

Rank Order: Corn

Rank Order: Paper

Rank Order: Silicone

Rank Order: Metal

Rank Order: No Straw

Would you give up plastic straws?

Would you carry your own straw?

22

F

C

5

4

2

3

1

Yes

Yes

23

F

C

4

5

3

2

1

Yes

Yes

24

F

C

3

5

1

4

2

Yes

Yes

25

F

C

3

5

2

1

4

Yes

Yes

26

F

C

3

5

2

4

1

No

Yes

27

F

C

1

4

2

5

3

Yes

Yes

28

F

A

2

4

3

5

1

Yes

Yes

29

F

A

3

5

1

2

4

Yes

No

30

F

C

4

5

1

3

2

Yes

Yes

31

F

C

4

5

2

1

3

Yes

No

32

F

C

4

3

5

2

1

Yes

No

33

F

C

2

5

4

1

3

Yes

Yes

34

F

C

1

5

4

2

3

Yes

Yes

35

F

A

1

5

4

2

3

Yes

Yes

36

F

A

1

3

4

5

2

Yes

Yes

37

F

A

2

4

5

1

3

Yes

No

38

M

C

4

5

1

3

2

Yes

Yes

39

M

C

4

5

1

3

2

Yes

No

40

F

A

4

5

2

3

1

Yes

Yes

41

M

A

2

3

4

5

1

Yes

Yes

42

M

A

3

5

2

4

1

Yes

No

43

F

C

4

5

1

2

3

Yes

Yes

44

F

A

2

4

5

3

1

Yes

No

45

F

C

1

5

2

4

3

Yes

Yes

46

F

A

3

4

5

2

1

Yes

No

47

M

A

2

5

4

1

3

Yes

No

48

M

A

3

5

4

2

1

Yes

No

49

M

C

1

3

5

4

2

Yes

No

50

F

A

4

5

3

2

1

Yes

No


 

Participant #

Sex

(M or F or O)

Age (Adult or Child)

Rank Order: Corn

Rank Order: Paper

Rank Order: Silicone

Rank Order: Metal

Rank Order: No Straw

Would you give up plastic straws?

Would you carry your own straw?

51

M

A

3

5

2

4

1

Yes

No

52

F

A

1

5

4

2

3

Yes

Yes

53

F

A

2

5

4

3

1

Yes

No

54

M

C

2

5

4

3

1

No

No

55

M

C

1

3

5

4

2

Yes

No

56

M

A

2

3

5

4

1

Yes

No

57

M

C

4

3

5

2

1

Yes

Yes

58

M

A

1

5

4

3

2

Yes

No

59

F

C

1

4

5

3

2

Yes

Yes

60

F

A

3

4

5

2

1

Yes

Yes

61

                 

62

                 

63

                 

64

                 

65

                 

66

                 

67

                 

68

                 

69

                 

Notes from participant comments:

 

Metal is very pretty.

Metal keeps water fresh.

Corn has a pleasing texture.

Silicone changes the taste of water.

Silicone hard to control the water flow.

Paper has a weird texture.

Corn felt like plastic which is nice and I’m used to it.

Metal was very hard.

Paper sticks to your lips.

At a movie there they gave paper straws and no compost.

People might think corn goes in the garbage.

 

Analysis

Through our observations, we were able to analyze the given data and create graphs comparing the participant’s answers. By making these graphs, it was easier to determine which straw was preferred and why. Making these graphs also showed us the differences between, ages and genders.

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, no straw is our winner for most preferred and most environmentally friendly. We were both surprised that people (Including kids) preferred no straw. 

The STRAW that was most preferred was...

Corn. Many participants mentioned that corn straws made them feel cortorbale because they felt and looked exactly like plastic straws and it was the type of straws they were used to. Corn was not the most environmentally friendly, because they are not reusable.

 

Metal was the third most preferred straw (Including No Straw). Participants say metal straws look very elegant and keep the water fresh, though they are sometimes hard on your teeth. Meta straws are not the most environmentally friendly straw but they are not the worst. It does take energy to make them but they are reusable. Participants did worry about the convenience of having to carry a straw around. 

 

Next on our list is silicone as the fourth most preferred straw. Some participants say silicone straws make it hard to control the flow of the water, and sometimes they change the taste of the water. Metal and silicone are very much alike in the environmental factor of this experiment.

 

Last but not least is paper. The least preferred straw. Participants quote that paper straws have a weird texture and stick to your lips. Not to mention they get very soggy even after only 10 minutes in water. 

 

Application

This project proves which straw out of 60 participants is the most popular and the least popular (including no straw). Participants drank water from the same glass through each straw ( corn, paper, no straw, silicone, metal ). Afterwards they put the straws in order from their least favourite to favourite. We also researched each individual straw to find out the pros and cons of them. After the participants gave their options, we graphed them with double bar graphs and single bar graphs, seeing if the age difference between kids and adults or being female or male changed their preference. Overall we noticed all straws are harmful to the environment, and participants preferred no straw.

Our results apply to the world because through our research and testing we learned that straws are really not necessary for people. This project was made to inform people about the impact that straws have on our world and we hope it has changed the people's perspective on straws. Why will this project make a difference? Well because the more people who know what is good and bad for our environment the bigger change we can make. Restaurants may be interested to know paper straws are still not the best for mother earth and people don't like them. 

 

 

Sources Of Error

If we had a chance to do this again, a few changes we would make is....

  • Try a variety of beverages in addition to water.
  • Ensure that all straws are the same size and colour.
  • Instead of general ranking, try rating each straw based on several criteria, such as taste, feeling, fun factor.
  • Include unconventional types of straws (uncooked pasta).
  • Introduce finer age brackets (seniors, preschoolers, teenagers, etc.).

One big source of error is the straw size. Some straws were wider, taller, smaller, etc. Next time we would control the size, shape and color of each straw.

For a future project, we would include many different types of straws and utensils.

Acknowledgement

We would like to acknowledge the traditional territories and oral practices of the Blackfoot Nations, which includes the Siksika, the Piikani, and the Kainai. We also acknowledge the Tsuut’ina and Stoney Nakoda First Nations, the Métis Nation (Region 3), and all people who make their homes in the Treaty 7 region of Southern Alberta.