The most common form of drinking straw is made of the thermoplastic polymer Polypropylene. This plastic is known for its durability, lightness, and ability to be manufactured at a low cost.

These attributes are what have made the traditional plastic straw ubiquitous in fast food establishments and take-out orders around the world. Additionally, other advantages of plastic straws include their ability to be molded into different shapes and sizes while also being able to withstand a wide range of temperatures without deforming. This is important because straws must be temperature resistant and thermally insulated because they can be used in both hot and cold beverages.

Plastic straws account only for a tiny portion (0.022%) of plastic waste emitted in the oceans each year. As such, some pro-environment critics have argued that plastic straw bans are insufficient to address the issue of plastic waste, and are mostly symbolic.

Full bans on single-use plastic straws have faced opposition from disability rights advocates, as they feel that alternative materials are not well-suited for use by those with impaired mobility (caused by conditions such as cerebral palsy and spinal muscular atrophy).