Drinks company Ribena has stopped using plastic straws in its cartons.
The new paper straws were first trialled in Tesco stores in May 2020 but are now a “permanent feature” across all Ribena cartons.
It is expected that the move will save up to 16 tonnes of plastic from being produced per year, as part of Ribena’s ambition to reach 100% sustainable packaging by 2030.
Jo Padwick, Transformation Manager at Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I, said: “It is great to see our years of hard work getting such positive reviews from Ribena drinkers. We have taken into account all of the feedback to help us improve the new paper straw that is now being launched on the range across all stores.”
A full roll-out is expected by April this year.
Plastic straws vs paper straws
One of the most common environmentally friendly alternatives to single-use plastic straws are paper straws. Paper straws break down into organic materials leaving a smaller footprint on the earth and are less harmful than plastic, because they are less durable, and should biodegrade.
The government has now made it illegal in almost all circumstances for businesses to give plastic straws to customers.
Along with the plastic straw ban, exemptions are still in place to protect disabled people and those with medical conditions to request a plastic straw when visiting a pub or restaurant and purchase them from pharmacies.
With increasing focus on cleaner oceans, protecting the environment and reducing plastic waste, we have removed the lines from sale online.
Paper and biodegradable straws are still available to buy, and both have gained huge traction against their plastic counterparts over the years.
We are keen to promote the ethical and environmentally compliant use of disposable products wherever possible.
For any enquiries on plastic straws, the ban and how we can help supply to your business, please contact us.
Our new PLA biodegradable straws have just arrived, initially available as 5mm black, 6mm black and white 9mm smoothie straws. These look and feel like plastic straws but are made from cornstarch based PLA – this means they break down naturally and feature no oil based plastics. 8mm PLA spoons straws are also being introduced shortly to complete the range.
We’ve now got 3 main ranges of disposable straws, the classic polypropylene plastic straws, biodegradable paper straws and biodegradable PLA straws.
Polypropylene plastic straws have the lowest cost per unit. As with any single use plastics there’s no environmental issue with using these at all as long as they’re able to be collected and recycled correctly.
For those customers that require a biodegradable alternative, there is the choice of classic style paper straws or PLA straws. Both of these will break down naturally and comply with any current council and event site mandates regarding biodegradability.
It seems that barely a day goes by without another article in the news claiming that plastic straws are littering the UK coastlines, affecting wildlife and upsetting locals. The following article from BBC News (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-42607662) discusses how the Marine Conservation Society is backing a proposed ban (by the Final Straw campaign) on single use plastic straws in Scotland.
The goal here is a sound one in principle, there is litter on UK coastlines and it does indeed affect wildlife; there’s no disputing this. As retailers of single use disposables we’re keen to promote the ethical and responsible use of catering disposables, indeed a large percentage of our range is now biodegradable for this reason.
There is unfortunately a fundamental disconnect between the action being taken to remove these straws and the actual cause of the pollution. The action assumes that because the waste exists it’s a foregone conclusion that it will end up being dumped in the ocean. Surely a better solution to this would be to target the irresponsible dumping of our waste into the oceans? Sadly pumping waste into the sea at offshore locations is often chosen as the cheapest method of waste disposal, however the capability and infrastructure already exists to process this waste. If sorted properly, a huge percentage can be recycled or repurposed. Studies in America have actually shown that the most efficient way of dealing with waste that cannot be processed is combustion (https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/jun/14/green-waste-distribution-methods-recycling-plastic-oil-epa) ; waste can be used as a fuel, incinerated and turned into usable electricity.
Instead, we seem to be focusing on selective reduction of specific types of waste (such as plastic straws) over reassessing how the country treats waste. Perhaps a more holistic approach is required for tackling pollution on our coastlines?
There is a lot of media attention regarding the humble plastic straw, namely pertaining to either reducing our usage or replacing them with a biodegradable alternative instead.
Two specific issues raised by campaigners are the amount of straws ending up in landfill and waste which finds its way into the sea, thereby polluting our oceans. Plastic straws are commonly made from polypropylene, if disposed of with regular waste this can take a significant amount of time to naturally break down. Figures vary depending on the source, but most agree it’s in the region of 450 years.
The group “Final Straw Cornwall” (http://finalstrawcornwall.co.uk/) is part of the movement that aims to remove plastic straws from bars to reduce the amount of litter on the coastline. This is obviously a worthwhile goal and one that does highlight a valid concern, straws are being disposed of incorrectly and ending up in unsorted waste.
So what do we do? There is the question of what to replace the plastic straw with, if they are indeed to be driven out of pubs / bars / clubs. In the UK we use 8.5 billion straws every year. Campaigners have suggested that paper straws could be used instead, with an aim of being biodegradable. The issue with this however is that paper itself is an absorbent material in its standard form; it will absorb water and lose its structural integrity. The combat this, manufacturers of paper straws use a plastic coating as a barrier; this can however render the item non-recyclable.
We’re always keen to promote the ethical and environmentally compliant use of disposable products wherever possible. An obvious option that seems to have been largely overlooked is promoting and enforcing the correct sortation and recycling of plastic straws. Polypropylene is easily and widely recycled along with regular plastic waste, it’s amongst the easier materials to process in fact (more information on plastic recycling: http://www.bpf.co.uk/sustainability/plastics_recycling.aspx).
Removing plastic straws from bars in their entirety would be a near impossible task; however changing practices in disposal would be the most efficient way of removing unwanted littering and reducing landfill usage.