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Paper Straws London Sky

9th March 2021

Single Use Plastics (SUP) and the introduction of Paper Straws

In 2018, it was really big news and the Attenborough affect was gaining momentum.

Pictures of islands of plastic waste and in particular plastic straws being stuck in turtle’s nostrils were particularly alarming. Laws were passed and deadlines set to ban Single Use Plastics. It was the right thing to do and we all supported it, didn’t we?

We at Advance Bunzl offer many paper solutions into the food service sector and so on a trip in 2018 to the NRA show in Chicago I was on a mission to find a manufacturer of papers straws that could certify that the inks and papers were all food grade. It was more difficult than I thought and I only found one small American company that fitted the criterion. On my return I started to think that perhaps we should look into the manufacture of straws ourselves. After all it is only paper, it’s what we do, so how difficult could it possibly be?

At the same time Tim Clifton was having the same thoughts and it was fate that we met on a golf course a couple of weeks later when paper straws came up in casual conversation. Afterwards he phoned me up to say “would I mind if he took the idea and went into paper straw manufacture”. It was an extraordinary decent request from a gentleman and so I replied “ l do not own the idea, so of course I do not mind, but what papers will you use and who will print them for you?” From that one round of golf and one telephone conversation Paper Straws London was formed and so did our partnership and friendship.

Our aim was to produce a good quality, safe paper straw ensuring that we only used certified food safe, papers, inks and adhesives. During the next six months we trialled different grades of paper, adhesives and ink systems. We all had paper straws in various glasses of different liquids for days on end trying to get the perfect straw. We finally got the right combination and were ready for the market, but was the market ready for us and our top quality straws.

What we naively did not consider was that the UK market did not quite feel the same way about quality and safety it was just price, price, price.

Did you know:-

  • A paper straw is generally 4 times more expensive that a plastic straw.
  • A UK manufactured paper straw is 25-30% more expensive than a Chinese manufactured straw.
  • A paper straw is probably the only packaging product designed to go in your mouth. (Surely you would want to know that it was all food grade approved.)
  • 4.7 billion Straws are used in the UK every year.
  • The modern straws are made of three layers of paper totalling 300gms of paper and three layers of adhesive. (It is no wonder that you can almost play the drums with them.)
  • Ironically the majority of imported paper straws are packaged in plastic.
  • The centre of the straw is referred to as the “bore”. (6mm for a standard straw and 10mm for a milk shake straw.)
  • A paper straw is technically not recyclable but a plastic straw is technically recyclable but rarely done.
  • Direct contact Food grade inks and lacquers are 5 times more expensive than standard inks and lacquers.

We were not the only naïve UK paper straw manufactures and it is sad that many of our competitors have gone out of business whilst we all waited for the SUP regulations to not only come into force but to be regulated.

We as part of Europe and now as an independent nation following Brexit quite rightly accept and follow the very strict regulations on the chemicals you can use in inks and adhesives. These regulations are not as strict in other areas of the world and importation is less regulated than indigenous manufacture which is clearly unfair. As you can see from the facts above, using the right ink is expensive but we at Paper Straws London and at our factory in Kent have not compromised. We trust that over time there will be more exposure on the unregulated, uncertified straws and increased UK buying ethics so that all UK manufacture can compete on a level playing field.

On the 1st October 2020, the first phase of the legislation came into force in a whimper rather than a bang. I am sure we all noticed that from that date all plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds were banned apart from a few medical exemptions. Further SUP regulations are due in July 2021 and October 2022.

Kevin Beamon: Director Advance Bunzl or telephone 01622 208155