Which reusable straw is best for my hotel?

In an ideal world we'd do as much as possible to reduce the single-use of any material and move away from being a 'disposable' society but we know that it isn't realistic to expect that all hotels and hospitality businesses could switch to reusable straws. Perhaps though, you could switch out a percentage of your single-use straws on certain types of drinks?

Here's what you'd need to consider before making the change.

Image: Sipster Straws

The most common reusable straws on the market these days are either made from bamboo or stainless steel. Depending upon the individual characteristics of your hotel and the guest demographic these could be a potential option for you, so we've looked in detail at what you would need to consider so that you can make the right decision for your business.

Bamboo is a super sustainable material due to it's quick growth and the fact it requires no chemicals for its cultivation. There are two main types of bamboo straw (natural and polished/cured). As a hotelier, you would need to purchase the cured bamboo as this is dishwasher safe and can therefore be washed alongside any other regular crockery and cutlery.

Give some thought to the following before you order your bamboo straws to make sure they're right for your business:

· Size Matters - bamboo is a natural material so each straw will be slightly different, however you do need to consider length and diameter. Larger diameters are well suited to smoothies, slush puppies and cocktails, and lengths do vary so be clear on whether you will use them in long drinks or small cocktail glasses.

· Cleaning/Hygiene - when buying bamboo straws for personal use they tend to come with a straw cleaner but it is unlikely that you will need to buy the same amount of cleaning brushes as straws, so try to find a company that gives you the opportunity to purchase cleaning brushes separately. The larger diameters associated with bamboo straws make them much easier to clean as water and cleaning solutions pass more easily through them. Give some thought to what type of drink they are being served with - it is highly recommended that any reusable straw is placed into soak as soon as possible after use and pre-cleaned with a cleaning brush to prevent build up of any residue inside, this would be important if you were serving milkshakes for instance.

· Lifespan - Even cured bamboo straws will eventually start to crack or splinter and at this point they become unusable in your hotel. The good news is that they can go in with food or other compostable waste. The flow of guests through your hotel will determine how long they will last so be sure to ask your bar staff to monitor this carefully.

· When to serve them - If you like the idea of having bamboo straws but the cost would be too high for your current budget, you could offer them in a signature drink - perhaps one certain type of cocktail, maybe even pairing it with a bamboo tumbler for an extra special effect. This way you can keep your costs down, still reduce single-use and give your guests something to talk about!

Why not retail bamboo straws to generate an income?

· Income Generator - Why not offer bamboo straws for sale? Could you create a #plasticfreeproduce area in your onsite shop or have these available for sale behind the bar? If you do this, be sure to offer the 'retail version' that comes with a cleaning brush and carrying pouch so that your guests can look after them.

Stainless Steel Stainless steel straws are extremely long-lasting, dishwasher safe and a little more elegant than a bamboo straw, often with a much smaller diameter which may not necessarily make them a good choice for smoothies. However, this material does lend itself well to a number of different design options. Give some thought to:

· Shape - Stainless steel straws are often available in two main designs, straight or curved, mimicking the design of the flexible single-use plastic straws we've become accustomed to seeing. There are also a number of suppliers who offer a version with a round disc at the bottom of the straw so that it can be used as a cocktail stirrer!

· Cleaning/Hygiene - most stainless steel straws are slim in their diameter so it is important that they are soaked immediately after use to prevent any residue build up that could be hard to remove when dried on. They are dishwasher friendly and do usually come with an individual cleaning brush, it would be wise for staff to use this brush to do an initial clean prior to the straw going into the dishwasher so you'd need to think about how they could impact on their time or guest service. Another alternative is to sterilise them using equipment that is similar to that used for a baby's bottle.

· Lifespan - assuming they are cleaned properly, these straws are extremely durable and will last for years.

The same considerations for when to serve them and having them for sale as an income generator would apply to stainless steel straws as to bamboo.

Aside from bamboo and stainless steel, there are a couple more options that you could also consider:

Jars with reusable plastic straws

Glass jars that come with a fitted lid and a reusable plastic straw are particularly popular when serving long cocktails as the range of designs lend themselves very well to being decorated with fruits, berries and herbs meaning that they don't just taste fabulous but they also look fabulous.

There are similar versions made from a reusable plastic that would be suitable for use around the poolside or on the beach therefore avoiding any potential accidents from broken glass, they're also great for slush puppies and milkshakes for the kids and the closed lid helps to keep spillages to a minimum.

Cleaning/Hygiene - These types of jar/straw combinations don't generally tend to be sold with straw cleaners, so we would recommend purchasing straw cleaners separately to enable staff to do an initial clean. As with most types of reusable plastic, checking the manufacturers instructions on dishwasher safety is always recommended.

· Lifespan - assuming the straws are cleaned properly, they should last for a number of years, but take care to check them regularly for scratches or teeth marks.

Glass Straws

Finally, we would really only recommend glass straws for hotels whose customer demographic is likely to appreciate them and treat them carefully. Otherwise you may decide to stock them purely for retail purposes, promoting them as great gifts for the eco-conscious hotel guest.

Clearly, any use of glass carries a health and safety risk and this must be considered carefully. Breakages may not only result in an accident but also be costly as glass straws are the most expensive reusable alternatives to single-use plastic straws.

Great care would need to be taken by staff when handling these straws, particularly if they are to pass through dish-washing equipment.

Final Thoughts

There may be concerns from guests and even tour operators around hygiene standards of reusable straws. This is very important and straws must be treated like any other reusable piece of crockery or cutlery, being properly washed at the correct temperatures and inspected by staff for cleanliness in the way they may check a knife, fork or a spoon.

Interestingly, the hygiene involved in eating with a stainless steel knife, fork or spoon that has gone through the dishwasher is not usually questioned. Most of us are happy to drink our coffee or a glass of wine from a cup or glass that has been used before and that has also gone through the dishwasher. Straws should be no different as long as they too have also been thoroughly cleaned.

For reusable bamboo & stainless straws take a look at:

Sipster Straws

Panda Packaging

and quote Travel Without Plastic when making your order.