12 February 2024

There must be a better option for thick shakes because paper straws suck!

| Chris Roe
Join the conversation
Thickshake inset with rubber duck on straws and plastic bottles

What’s wrong with this picture? Photo: Chris Roe / enviromantic.

I hadn’t had a thick shake in years but decided to give in and join the kids in an ice cream and sugar binge to celebrate their first week back at school.

The caramel shake was just as thick and sweet as I remembered and, for about 10 seconds, I was transported back to my youth when I could suck one down without consequence.

I was only two sips in when the structural integrity of my paper straw was compromised and within seconds it had collapsed into a flat strip of wet cardboard.

Rather than walk back to the milk bar – a journey that would take me past the aggressively friendly charity workers who had attempted to get a lifelong financial commitment to the RSPCA with the line, “Do you like dogs?” – I decided to persist with my flat straw.

READ ALSO Florence Gelato makes a gelato for the people: meet ‘The CBR’

It was all downhill from there as the paper tube rapidly deteriorated to the texture of overcooked spaghetti.

As I looked at my sad, sloppy noodle and recalled happier times with more structurally sound plastic tubes, I noticed that the lid, through which my ‘environmentally friendly’ paper scroll was placed, was made from unrecyclable plastic.

“Now they are just teasing me!” I thought as I abandoned the half-finished $9.20 drink and picked scraps of milky paper off my tongue.

Worst. Beverage. Experience. Ever.

Where did it all go so wrong?

READ ALSO Mokka cafe: fabulous sandwiches, sublime coffee and the best loyalty program in Australia!

Look, I get it, single-use plastic straws are not great for the environment and are like turtle-seeking missiles in the ocean, but why have we not come up with a better alternative than paper – a material that is famously not waterproof?

The added irony of paper straws is that they are not recyclable and are often coated with wax or a thin film of plastic that disqualifies them from biodegradability.

So what’s the alternative?

Paper remains the cheapest option, and if it’s not dyed or coated, it is environmentally friendly, but the user experience is horrendous.

Reusable is obviously the best option, but few of us are likely to have a metal or silicone straw on hand at the mall when the impulse strikes.

To Wendy’s credit, they do offer the option to upgrade to a reusable straw for an additional fee, but when it takes the cost of a thick shake to more than $10, it’s a bit hard to swallow.

Looking to history, the ancient Sumerians were slurping beer through reusable metal straws more than 5000 years ago to get beneath the floaters and to filter out the sediments.

Reeds were also popular back in the day and, in the 19th century, ryegrass stalks were all the rage but they added a weird taste and broke down quicker than my wet noodle from Wendy’s.

Reeds are back in 2024 along with bamboo straws and they certainly present a great solution using a renewable resource, but I’ve yet to see them being used in the wild.

Wheat straws or pasta straws are another option and surprisingly, they are gluten-free, being made from a wheat by-product rather than the grains themselves.

Hopefully, some of the more structurally sound options will begin to enter circulation as we continue moving away from single-use plastic, but in the meantime, I’m unlikely to splash out on a thick shake any time soon.

Original Article published by Chris Roe on Region Riverina.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Yes, paper straws are terrible. I keep metal straws in the car and at home, and take one with me if I’m going to have a thickshake.

I had a drink with a straw made of wheat the other day, which worked really well and didn’t go soggy. But not much good for coeliacs!

I carry my own extendable metal straw which I use happily for most things, but isn’t big enough for bubble drinks.

There are no doubt solutions to the lid problem but until legislation forces businesses to use them they won’t.

Frankie Rossettin, I buy almost all fruit not wrapped in plastic, and don’t take the plastic bags to put fruit in. That’s not hard to do.

“What’s wrong with this picture?”
You asked 😄, so my answer.
1. Someone accepted a disposable cup. Bring your own reusable cup or sit down with a proper cup in a cafe, and reduce waste.
2. I now have a question. As I have never had a problem with paper straws, what is that persons problem? How did they manage that? I don’t get it, as paper straws work for me. But then again, most of the paper straws I have had in cafes when drinking iced coffee from a glass, and one the other day for bubble tea. The last one was more like rigid cardboard than paper, and wide for the jelly lumps.

I got an Asian noodle soup in Civic the other day. The recyclable soup spoon turned to mush, the bamboo fork broke and I had to end up throwing the soup in the bin with the useless cutlery.

Your fork broke? It’s a savage approach to the consumption of soup.

Wax sealed straws work fine. As for all the “bring your own straw” crowd, most men don’t carry handbags. And while no straw is required for most beverages, it’s handy to have one in a moving vehicle.

Capital Retro3:50 pm 14 Feb 24

I haven’t seen or tried the new paper straws but the real old ones used to have a wax coating which gave them structural integrity. They could be re-used and adapted to other applications (as we baby-boomers) used to do.

No litter in those days, everything was re-used or re-purposed.


Which is what lined the highways and littered the streets before successful campaigns to put it in a bin.

Your rosy fantasies about baby-boomers seeks to obscure that a majority of them are still part of the problem.

Capital Retro9:37 am 15 Feb 24

Let me remind you that only young people have dreams and fantasies of the future whereas old people have wonderful memories of better times.

Have a nice day!

Live long with your happily selective memories.

I do not assume you become more conservative as you grew older but rather you were ever thus. I referred to a majority, not all.

Capital Retro12:11 pm 15 Feb 24

Did I say “selective memories”? No, I didn’t.

I can remember all that has happened and compared to the neo-Marxist “crap-think” you are are drawing from all was wonderful back then.

You can have a nice day also.

Amanda Monster2:41 pm 14 Feb 24

I dont understand why bread, milk , yoghurt, butter and 1000s of other products can still be sold in plastic but not the only thing that is most practical to come in plastic.

I have been using paper straws with no problems. None have collapsed or failed to work. For drinks such as bubble tea, bigger paper (more like cardboard) straws exist. Very pleased that plastic straws have been go rid off.

Was there any scientific study they were bad, or someone woke up one day and decided plastic was bad. I’d assume a good amount of petrol went into making the plastic straw and shipping it here. Straws and food aren’t consumed so aren’t part of the same health checks imported food is held to.

Plastic straws are basically fuel you could put into a water to energy converter and turn back into some mild greenhouse gases and water.

Clothes aren’t seen as bad. They’re also made of plastic. But instead of bring dumped they are sailed around the world and dumped in the sea. Even the 3rd world can’t cope with the new item of clothing every week fashion hysteria.

Plastic straws are banned not because it’s good for the environment but they were an easy target and someone wanted to make a dance about it.

GrumpyGrandpa9:27 pm 13 Feb 24

On our last trip to a venue that supplied paper straws, we did the obvious; we took 2 papers straws each.

CaptainSpiff9:05 pm 13 Feb 24

Anti-plastic fetish in full swing, with predictable results. Hopefully those who vote for this silliness are enjoying their paper straws, wooden cutlery, and carrying groceries home in paper bags.

“… I was only two sips in when the structural integrity of my paper straw was compromised and within seconds it had collapsed into a flat strip of wet cardboard…”

I do not think there is a better metaphor today for where this climate change nonsense is taking us; the only difference being that the author knew their straw was useless, whereas the climate warriors will never admit to such a thing, no matter what

Richard Bennett6:15 pm 13 Feb 24

Well i get around the problem by not throwing it away but take of the lid and drink…

Clearly manufacturers don’t know how to make proper paper straws, as they used to be very effective when paper straws were all we had. They were made from waxed paper, did their job and held their shape as long as you didn’t squash them or take forever to drink your drink.

…and so it begins! Plastic might be bad but we have developed a need for a lot of bad stuff!

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.