Should Paper Napkins Fade Away Along with Plastic Straws?

As you probably know by now, California passed a law this past January preventing bars, restaurants, and cafés from handing out plastic straws unless customers specifically ask for them. A few cities went even further. For example, San Francisco has banned the use of plastic straws altogether. So has Malibu, San Luis Obispo, and several other California cities.

The plastic straw question has touched the corporate world as well. Business Insider notes that a number of organizations have taken it upon themselves to voluntarily abandon plastic straws. Companies like Starbucks and American Airlines are among them. Even Walt Disney World in central Florida recently announced no more plastic straws.

In light of all this, perhaps the time has come for restaurants to start looking at greener, more sustainable solutions in all areas. In our industry, that means encouraging customers to look to more linen solutions and less paper. Linen napkins are a great example.

Replacing Paper Napkins with Linen

One possible solution to the current problem is replacing plastic straws with a paper alternative. That naturally leads us, as a linen provider, to the subject of paper napkins. Replacing plastic with paper is a good start, but we can do better. We can think more sustainably by considering linens over paper, since linen napkins are reusable.


It takes a lot of resources to produce paper napkins. Trees have to be cut down, transported to a processing facility, transformed into paper, processed to make napkins, and then shipped to retail centers. And because paper napkins are disposable, they are one-and -done products and end up in landfills. Linen napkins are an entirely different matter.

Linen napkins are multi-use napkins more than capable of providing years of reliable service and sustainability. As a result, they produce a lot less waste. The fact that linen napkins last longer also means that it requires fewer resources to produce them.

Interestingly enough, the 2016 Sparks Research Restaurant Consumer Study shows consumers actually prefer linens to paper. Check out these numbers:

  • 80% of consumers prefer restaurants with linen table settings

  • 71% prefer a cloth table setting as opposed to a bare table with paper napkins

  • 87% say the cloth table settings are associated with better food

  • 74% say the cloth table settings create a better appearance

  • 40% are willing to pay more to dine with a cloth table setting instead of paper.

The reality is that linen napkins are better in the long run. As we look to a future that is greener and more sustainable, we also have to look at steps we can take now to get there. A move to table linens is a step in the right direction.

Call Alsco Linen and Uniform Rental Services for a complimentary consultation today.


  1. San Diego Tribune –

  2. Ocean Conservancy –

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