The Key Facts On Bio-Degradable Straws

With new and continuing media focus on plastic pollution, the UK government is passing urgent legislation to ban plastic straws into an affect. This ban will see big changes across the UK catering and hospitality industry with regards to drink service and take-away food packaging, particularly a move to use bio-degradable straws.

This article looks at the way the industry is re-acting to the changes, with a focus on the new products that leverage the change as an opportunity to win over eco-friendly and environmentally conscious customers.

We also outline the key facts of the changing law and bust jargon on new eco-friendly materials commonly used in the production of Bio-Degradable Straws, such as REPA.

The Problem

According to the UN, between 8 to 12 tonnes of waste plastic are dumped into ocean each year and if this current rate continues there will be more plastic than fish in seas by 2050. Fueled by the media, there is now a growing movement amongst consumers to become increasingly environmentally conscious when making purchases.

Whilst much of this media focus is around food packaging, eating and dining out has not escaped the attention. It is estimated that 8 billion plastic straws are discarded in Britain every year with a quarter of the straws used in London.

Changes in UK Law

The Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove, has stated described that he wants to pass legislation to ban plastic straws in the UK, Mr Gove was looking at the legal basis for the ban in which he plastic straws as “lethal” to marine, this proposed legislation is part of four-point plan to combat waste an increase the level of recycling.

How Are Caterers Responding?

2018 has seen many catering businesses now replace their plastic straws with bio-degradable straws and other environmentally friendly alternatives, in a bid to use the ban on plastics to raise the eco-profile of their business and stand out amongst the competition.

On March 28th, the biggest fast food chain in the UK McDonalds have pledged to replace plastic straws with bio-degradable straws for all soft drinks, as well trial a scheme where straws are behind the counter an only given out on request. McDonald’s UK chief executive, Paul Pomroy has stated in an interview with Sky that “Customers have told us that they don’t want to be given a straw and that they want to have to ask for it, so we're acting on that.”

Across smaller businesses and independent outlets, the industry has seen the emergence of two alternative product groups to fulfil the eco-friendly requirement. We take a look at each.

Paper Straws

Typically, paper straws are manufactured from 100% recycled paper. This means that they are 100% compostable and 100% bio-degradable.

If the product is sustainably sourced from FSCS approved forsterites, or made from recycled materials, then they provide an excellent solution to the problem.

Whilst paper straws are a high-quality alternative to traditional plastics, and typically offer vibrant colours to liven up drink service at your bar, many consumers have complained that their short lifespan makes them impractical for use.

Typical customer complains revolve around the straws going “soggy”, or not being tough enough to handle thicker milkshakes, smoothies or cocktails.

Furthermore, the cost of paper production, typically makes them a more expensive option.

Paper Straws
Bio-Degradable Straws

Biodegradable Straws

The most popular, and by far most successful alternative to plastic is bio-degradable straws. These typically are manufactured from REPA, a material produced from ground sea shells that provides the same consistency and practical use as plastic, whilst maintaining non-toxic and 100% bio-degradable properties.

REPA material and bio-degradable straws are fully compliant with the new legislation and given their practical benefits, are proving to be a success with caterers. A recent poll indicated that most consumers don’t know the difference between the bio-degradable straw and a traditional plastic.

That said, many pubs and bars are opting to take alternative coloured straws to highlight their compliance with the new legislation and to encourage the eco-friendly customer, with our data indicating that Green Bio-Degradable Straws have overtaken the Bio-Degradable Black Bendy Straw for the first time.

Our Conclusion

Paper Straws

  • Stylish, colourful options readily available
  • Check for sustainably sourced products
  • Be aware of the shorter lifespan

Bio-Degradable REPA Straws

  • Manufactured from ground sea shells
  • 100% non-toxic and 100% bio-degradable
  • Improved durability compared to paper