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A Paper Straw with Benefits

Photo of Soren & Hans

Written by

Plastic straws cause ecological problems. Paper straws are ecologically friendly but too expensive and maybe not that good.

  1. Plastic straws are manufactured with an output of 1,400 pcs per minute (on this type of production line) whereas paper straws are manufactured with an output of 200 pcs per minute (on this line). Plastic straws are cheaper than paper straws.
  2. Paper straws are functionally flawed. states it like this : "You've been there: your super adorable paper straw looks cute in your drink initially but it slowly becomes gummy as you suck on it, and starts falling apart, distorting the drink's flavor. Gross.". Plastic straws do their job better than paper straws.
  3. Paper straws decompose within weeks, plastic straws do not decompose within a human life-time.
  4. Pulp-clay materials (e.g. from FreeFormPack) are starting to become commercially available. Such materials are water tight but decompose within five weeks.
  5. Carlsberg Brewery will launch a beer bottle made of a pulp-clay compound from EcoXPac in 2018. A sign that the technology is reaching technological readiness for commercial use.
  6. In 2007 in Japan the cigarette industry introduced flavor capsules (e.g. with menthol) in cigarette filters: Consumers may crush a liquid-filled capsule that flavors the cigarette smoke. The product is banned in many countries - the flavour capsulte technology is not dangerous in itself but it promotes smoking which is. 
  7. It is technically possible (see e.g. SWRI) to microencapsulate vitamins, flavors and aromas and release them when exposed to e.g. water, heat or friction.
  8. It is technically possible to add plant seeds to pulp and wood (Sprout makes pencils with seeds).

Make a new and superior paper straw with unique features!

Make the FlavorStraw by:

  • Using the emerging pulp-clay materials in order to make the straw robust. 
  • Using the existing paper straw production lines in order to reduce the required investments.
  • Adding micro encapsulated aromas in the layer of paper facing the inside of the straw so e.g. water can be flavored when using the straw (just release the aromas by rolling the straw between your hands before using it).
  • Adding micro encapsulated vitamins (e.g. vitamin C) so that any liquid passing inside the straw is enriched with "good stuff". 
  • Adding seeds to the straw (via the pulp) so that a new aroma-carrying plant can grow if the straw is accidentally dropped in nature.

FlavorStraw looks like a normal straw, feel like a normal straw and works like a normal straw. But it is so much more!

A FlavorStraw will for sure be much more expensive than a conventional plastic straw. However, it will also add more value: 

  • Initially: Choose the FlavorStraw (and feel good about it!) knowing that it will never end up in the nostrils of a turtle!
  • Short term: Enjoy the aromas extracted from the straw.
  • Long term: Enjoy seeing the seed evolve into a plant.

An improved paper straw without the added short and long term benefits will only be seen as a more expensive solution compared to plastic straws. Such a paper straw will never get traction on its own. 

The cigarette industry has successfully demonstrated that it is possible to add flavor (and thus value) to an existing product.

We also want the world to become hooked - on FlavorStraws!

Idea Title

FlavorStraw. Do Nature a Favor: Use a Straw with Flavor!

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

The use of plastic straws.

In what geographical context or area does your Idea plan to operate / solve?

Everywhere where plastic straws are used.

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

The classic way to introduce the idea would be via from some of the big chains providing straws to their customers as part of their service offering. Probably in cooperation (read: sponsorship) with the suppliers of beverages (logos can easily be printed on the Flavor Straw).

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: You are exploring an idea, gathering inspiration and information needed to test it with real users.

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea and working with the Think Beyond Plastics Accelerator Program will help to accelerate your solution.

Becoming a Top Idea would be the coolest thing in the world! We know some companies that can microencapsulate almost any substance (from lab-scale to industrial volumes)! We also know companies making pulp-clay compounds and paper thereof (and can embed the microencapsulated vitamins and flavors). We don't yet know any company with a paper straw manufacturing line but these are easily googled. You get further with money and kind words than with kind words alone! We would test every combination!

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

We were brainstorming about the plastic straw challenge.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Soren & Hans !

We have received your Refinement Phase Submission Questions! Just a friendly reminder that the Phase closes tonight, August 31st at 11:30 p.m. PT. so please update your contribution on the platform before the deadline.

Thank you for all your work this Refinement Phase and for being member of the OpenIDEO Community!

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Soren & Hans!

There are 7 days left in the refinement phase.

If there is key information in the comments on your idea submission, I recommend that you move them to the main body of your idea submission before the cut-off time.

I just want to remind you that the deadline to complete the Refinement Questions via the online submission form is August 31 at 11:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Soren & Hans!

Welcome to the refinement phase.

I look forward to seeing a prototype of your idea and some testing. The flavour aspect is very interesting and I wonder how people would response to a flavoured paper straw compared to a paper straw without flavours or a plastic one.

What assumptions is your idea based upon? What key questions do you have about consumer behaviour or the product?

There are a few ideas from a previous challenge you on fall prevention that you might want to check out:

Stairwear - - is a great example of iterative prototyping and gathering feedback from the user at the same time.

Also, for Stepwise - - the ideator filmed people using a very early stage version of her idea to understand how they would interact with an obstacle playground for older adults and what their experience is.

I would recommend testing a low-fidelity prototype with one element e.g. flavour (if possible) and iterating. It would be great to test lots of versions if you have time, but there are only two weeks in refinement.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me by tagging me here (@ followed by my name) or sending me an email -

I just want to remind you that the deadline to complete the Refinement Questions via the online submission form is August 31 at 11:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

Photo of Cary Howe

Still not sure how this gets rid of waste? Paper straws have been around since I was a kid and what about adding flavoring makes them more recyclable?

Photo of Soren & Hans

Not sure we understand your comment completely... Paper straws are made of a renewable resource so what you chose to call "waste" is actually something that can be used as a fertilizer or just being burnt for a quick-release of energy! Look to Scandinavia for best practice! The present paper straws are, as mentioned in the text, not a very efficient straw. A better paper straw is, as mentioned, more expensive so you need to add value to the product to get (or at least have a chance of getting) some market penetration/traction.

Photo of Noryawati Mulyono

Dear Soren & Hans,
I exactly agree with you that paper is more environmentally friendly than plastic. However, it is also said that all paper causes ecological damage. Please follow to learn more about the ways that the virgin-wood paper industry is damaging the world’s forests and waterways. Therefore, I think paper is not the best solution to solve the plastic waste solution for long term.

Photo of Soren & Hans

Well, USA is not really in the forefront of sustainable foresting so probably it's not fair to use a non-participant in the Paris climate agreement as an example of anything ecological... Look instead to Scandinavia (e.g. Sweden, Finland) and you will see that all paper mills do clean their water very well. Paper can be reused 5-6 times and then deliver value (energy) by being burned! Paper is by far the second best choice for straws! The best choice is not to use straws but the "American Infantilism" has made the use of straws a must - even for adults! (PS: Dont' get us wrong, we love the USA).

Photo of DeletedUser


Hi Noryawati Mulyono and Soren & Hans - thanks to you both for being open and sparking a conversation that will hopefully push thinking in both directions. I especially liked your point about "The best choice is not to use straws" and I'm wondering how that can be integrated into your idea. Just a thought if you're thinking of doing some low fidelity prototype/testing of different ways to think of your idea.

Photo of Soren & Hans

Hi Scott, thanks for your comments! Well, an obvious approach would be just to ask people if they would like a straw or not. This has worked well with glass straws in restaurants (they are a pain to clean afterwards) on Bali... Our assumption is that it is very difficult to get people not to use (and ask for) straws, in particular in the US.

Photo of Banoyi

Congratulations, what an awesome idea. I would buy it in a heartbeat.
To me the most compelling feature is that it will help children appreciate water, which helps in the race against child obesity.