Plastic straws will be banned from April 2020 in England – so what are the cheapest alternatives?

The Government has just announced that the sale and distribution of disposable plastic straws will be effectively banned in England from next April, in a bid to reduce the amount of plastic we throw away. Yet many of us like (or even need) to use some form of straw – whether due to disability or simply wanting to protect our teeth. So what are the cheapest reusable or eco-friendly alternatives?

Update 24 May 2019: We first wrote this blog last year, but have updated it with new info after the Government gave new details of its plastic straw ban.

Plastic straws won't entirely disappear next year – you'll be able to buy them if you need them for medical reasons, or request them in bars and restaurants if you have a disability (and you won't need to prove it). But they won't be on general sale, and bars and restaurants won't be able to hand them out automatically – see full details on the website. (And while the upcoming ban next April only applies to England, there are similar plans afoot in Scotland and Wales.)

This is good news for the environment, but unfortunately it means if you want to use a straw without it being single-use plastic, you're going to have to fork out extra. Given disposable plastic straws currently sell for less than a penny each (eg, we found 100 for 59p at Amazon), that's pretty much unavoidable. But we've rounded up some of the cheapest alternatives, from disposable paper straws to reusable metal ones.

What are reusable or eco-friendly straws?

Reusable straws can be washed and used again and again, instead of being thrown away. They can be made from all sorts of materials, including metal, bamboo and glass. You can also buy reusable plastic straws, which are more durable than disposable ones.

As well as price, the big difference with reusable straws is the way they look and feel – some straw users may prefer the feel of a metal straw over bamboo, for example.

We've also included prices for paper straws below. These aren't reusable, but they are better for the environment as they're biodegradable.

Predictably, many of these products can be found cheapest online if you shop at Amazon. But we've also included the cheapest in-store prices at the big high street and supermarket chains where possible – useful if you don't want to wait for delivery.

Cheapest disposable paper straws

Although these are only designed to be used once, biodegradable paper straws are more eco-friendly than plastic ones – as the Government found in its impact assessment. They're one of the cheapest alternatives when you look at cost per straw, though if you're a regular straw user, you might want to 'invest' in something longer-lasting. Here are the cheapest we found:

  • 80 paper straws – £2 at Tesco* (3p each)
  • 100 paper straws – £3 at Morrisons* (3p each)
  • 150 paper straws – £4.99 at Lakeland* (3p each)
  • 50 paper straws – £1.75 at Asda* (4p each)
  • 100 paper straws – £3.49 at Amazon* (4p each)
  • 50 paper straws – £3 at Waitrose* (6p each)

Cheapest metal straws

Made from 'food-grade' stainless steel (ie, of a quality suitable for use alongside food), these straws can be washed and reused – you can even put them in the dishwasher. Although you can't adjust the angle while you're drinking, you can buy bent and straight versions. Here are the cheapest we found:

  • Six metal straws (plus two cleaning brushes) – £2.30 at Amazon* (38p each)
  • Six metal straws – £5.99 at Lakeland* (£1 each)
  • Six metal straws – £8 at Morrisons* (£1.33 each)

Cheapest bamboo straws

Bamboo straws are organic, biodegradable and eco-friendly, as bamboo is considered a sustainable material. They can be washed and reused again and again. Here's the cheapest we found:

  • Two bamboo straws – £2.93 at Amazon* (£1.47 each)

Cheapest glass straws

Glass straws may sound like a disaster waiting to happen, but they're designed to be durable and shatterproof. They're also pricier than other reusable options. Here are the cheapest we found:

  • 11 glass straws – £8.99 at Amazon* (82p each)
  • One glass straw – £1.67 at Amazon* (£1.67 each)

Cheapest reusable plastic straws

OK, so these are still plastic, but they're designed to be sturdy enough to be washed and reused. If you clean and look after these straws properly, there's no reason they shouldn't last for years. Here are the cheapest we found:

  • 10 reusable plastic straws – £1.58 at Amazon* (16p each)
  • 20 reusable plastic straws – £3.99 at Lakeland* (20p each)
  • 10 curly reusable plastic straws – £2.19 at Amazon* (22p each)
  • Six reusable plastic straws – £2.50 at Waitrose* (42p each)
  • Three curly reusable plastic straws – £1.80 at Morrisons* (60p each)

For more tips on reducing your plastic waste (and saving money), see MSE Kelvin's blog 13 ways to use less plastic AND save cash.