Suck on this idea for a moment: Worldwide, consumers go through billions of polypropylene straws every year. But until now, there was no global standard for those straws.
That's according to the International Organization for Standardization — the Geneva-based group behind all the ISO certifications — which announced Feb. 3 that it has just published the first global standard for dimensions and performance properties of plastic straws. The standard is intended to help manufacturers produce consistent, quality products.
And yes, in case you were wondering, right off the bat ISO defines what a “plastic drinking straw” is. Namely, a “thin tube of plastic for sucking up liquid from a container.”
It also separates straws into major types of straws: the straight straw, the flexible straw, the “spoon straw” — the type used to scoop out that frozen treat from the bottom of a Slurpee cup — the “sharp tip straw” — used in drink boxes — and an extendable straw.
And in case you wondered, the fine staff at the International Organization for Standardization point out in a news release — apparently drawn from Wikipedia since the reference is a close match — that the first people to use straws likely were the Sumerians in the fourth millennium B.C., and were probably used to drink beer. (And here I thought my strange sister-in-law was the only person who ever used a straw to drink beer.)
According to IOS (and Wikipedia) the oldest known straw, found in a grave dated from 3,000 B.C.E., was made of gold and set with the precious blue stone lapis lazuli while others were made of paper or grass.
So next time you stop at the drive-thru, just remember. It's not just a Coke you're drinking, you're celebrating thousands of years of human history. In plastic.