Around this time last year, Froot Loops cereal straws, which were a real thing between the years of 2007 and 2009, became the subject of conversation again for the first time in nearly a decade. Kellogg’s, facing that age-old business imperative of “social media and a Change.org petition told us to,” announced that they were reviving the late-aughts novelty treat, but with a few caveats: The straws would be available for one week only, exclusively at Kellogg’s cafe in New York, and also would be a completely different “special-edition” variety that looked more at home sticking out of a monstrous Black Tap milkshake rather than a simple glass of milk.
It wasn’t exactly what the 11,000-plus people who had clamored for the return of the straw had in mind, and so their wish remained unfulfilled. To this day, certain corners of social media still refuse to let the dream die, and the Change.org petition “Bring back Froot Loops Cereal Straws” continues to accumulate a steady trickle of signatures (there are now more than 59,000).
One of the main half-joking, half-serious arguments for the cereal straw is that it is the environmentally friendly alternative to the plastic straw that has long dominated the market. Of course, it was only in recent years that the single-use plastic straw became the bogeyman for all discussions about individual culpability and our polluted oceans: In response to the rising urgency of the climate crisis, restaurants, coffee chains, cities, and entire countries are banning plastic straws and other single-use plastics. A whole industry of alternative straws has emerged, each with its own particular deficiency that prevents it from being adopted and embraced en masse: Paper? Prone to dissolving. Bamboo and metal? Too expensive at scale. Glass? Easy to drop and shatter. And so on, and so forth.
For some, edible straws remain the elusive prize; what is more natural than something that we can chew and swallow after draining a glass, a miracle tool disposed of right through our own digestive system? In recent months, some of these consumable alternatives have surfaced — straws made of seaweed, rice, grass, even regular ol’ pasta.
As it turns out, Kellogg’s circa in the mid- to late aughts was somehow remarkably prescient about a future in which straws became the locus of anxiety about climate change and the human-caused destruction of our planet. The cereal straw sits at the intersection of ’90s-kid nostalgia for a sugary past during which it didn’t feel like the world was burning, and present-day anxiety over the fact that it is. Just overlook the fact that the ingredients list for the Froot Loops straw, like similar kinds of confectionery straws, includes palm oil — the unquenchable demand for which is one of the main reasons for the burning and deforestation of the Amazon, which has seen a record number of fires this year — alongside artificial flavors and other substances with unpronounceable names.
The cereal straw is a fantasy, but an appealing one, nonetheless. Environmentally conscious millennials and Gen Z-ers want a straw that won’t dissolve (a 2007 review of the Froot Loops straw makes clear that, for all its faults, it actually holds up pretty well in liquid), until it does, when we want it to, which is when it disappears into our stomachs sight unseen after our drinks. Such is the desire for an edible straw that will let us feel a little less complicit in the draining of natural resources in which we are all very much complicit.
Even better if the straw actually tastes good, just like the fruity, sickly sweet bowls of cereal that we ate as children, back when we didn’t know any better, before “milk” didn’t mean anything but the cow’s.