Present straws are made of plastic, which don't easily degrade. Recycling them is not a viable option, since they contain very little material and the recycling efficiency would be very low (i.e. relatively expensive). We chose chitin for the following reasons: 1. it's water-proof (it's a polysaccharide related to cellulose) 2. it's easily degraded by natural enzymes (made by bacteria and fungi), 3) it's abundant and cheap (being a by-product of a shrimping industry, currently going into landfills), 4) it's renewable (shrimp and crabs make it for themselves), 4) it degrades into a very valuable compound, chitosan, used in a variety of useful applications. Unfortunately, the reviewers thought otherwise and we did not progress into the next round. We filed several patents and are seeking private financing instead..
To change over the 'new' straw will require some effort of regulatory bodies and voluntary action from the likes of Starbucks, Coca-Cola and others, but not by the consumers. To the consumer, the cost of the straw is not known and is not of a direct concern: it is' baked-into' the total price of the beverage, together with the cost of the drinking cup. So, to switch people to use the new straw is not a particularly difficult task, as long as there are no other issues (usability, convenience, etc.) and they are not faced with a) side-by-side choice and/or b) beverage end price difference. As an example, right now consumers don't care if they get a take-out food/beverages in paper or styrofoam containers: they may care about general environmental issues, but as long as they are 'not' paying (they are indeed paying, but indirectly) for food packaging, they take whatever the food/beverage is packaged in, as long as there is no perceived price/utility difference.