As the United Kingdom moves forward with its planned ban on single-use plastic products, the first paper straw factory in decades is opening in Wales to meet the consumer demand. Transcend Packaging, the owner and operator of the new plant, has already reached out to 1,361 McDonald’s restaurants throughout the U.K., as well as other restaurants, to provide them with more environmentally-friendly straws. “We spotted a huge opportunity, and we went for it,” Transcend Packaging sales and marketing director Mark Varney told The Guardian. “When the BBC’s Blue Planet II was on the telly and the government started talking about the dangers of plastic straws, we saw a niche in the market.” Because of the change in British plastic policy, that niche may soon grow into a national industry.
Even before the national plastic ban, companies were moving to use more eco-friendly products, though the acquisition of these products was not necessarily sustainable. “It is great that all these businesses are phasing out plastic straws, but the problem for them was where to get paper ones from,” Varney said. “Everyone is having to import them from China, and when you look at the carbon footprint of that it kind of defeats the exercise.” Thus, Transcend Packaging’s factory was born. Varney continued, “We set up this company to give the the customers what they actually want: biodegradable paper straws made in the U.K.”
While paper straws are marginally more expensive than plastic straws, there are numerous benefits not captured in the numbers. For example, “McDonald’s, bless them, understood the massive difference to the environment,” said Varney, and embraced the paper straw for the company’s public image and the good of the environment.
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