Paper straws cost 'maybe 10 times' more than plastic straws, says paper straw distributor

Key Points
  • Paper straws cost about 2½ cents, compared with a half-cent for plastic straws, says Adam Merran, CEO of PacknWood.
  • Starbucks is just one of many companies to recently announce that it will phase out plastic straws.
  • Merran says other alternatives include re-usable straws.
Eco-friendly packaging exec talks Starbucks' straw elimination plan
Eco-friendly packaging exec talks Starbucks' straw elimination plan

Food distributors are looking for environmentally friendly alternatives as more and more companies ditch plastic straws. The most obvious choice is paper straws, but they cost a lot more.

"You’re looking at maybe ten times the cost," Adam Merran, CEO of PacknWood, a food service products company, told CNBC on "Closing Bell" Monday.

"If you buy a paper straw, it’s about two cents and a half," he said. Plastic straws cost about a half-cent.

But Merran, whose company distributes paper straws —using recyclable and organic materials — to coffee shops, Las Vegas casinos and large stadiums like Madison Square Garden, said it's all about perspective.

"You go from something that is very, very, very cheap, to something that is still actually cheap," he said.

Starbucks was just one of many chains to recently announce that it would go without single-use plastic straws by 2020. Bon Appetit Management Company, a food service management company that services about 1,000 locations around the nation, also recently announced it would stop using plastic straws in facilities that it manages.

However, Starbucks, in lieu of paper straws — which many customers have complained lose their shape too fast — said it will replace plastic straws with a recyclable sippy cup-type lid.

"Any green solution is a solution," Merran said.

The design studio Kikkerland designed these festive paper straws that can be tossed in a home composter after a party. They come in a box of 144 and can be purchased for under $10.
Allen J. Schaben | Los Angeles Times| Getty Images

He said other alternatives include re-usable straws, where customers clean their straws at home and bring them back each time they dine out, similar to a to-go mug.

As for how long the paper straws last after being inserted into liquid, Merran said it depends on the beverage and temperature.

"It should hold for about the time for you to [finish the] drink," he said. "It’s going to become a little soggy, but you can still drink from it. It’s like any alternative. It’s not perfect but it does the trick."

WATCH: Starbucks will ditch plastic straws from all stores by 2020

Starbucks to ditch plastic straws from all stores by 2020
Starbucks to ditch plastic straws from all stores by 2020