As the negative environmental impact of plastic straws becomes more and more clear—each of those single-use straws can take hundreds of years to decompose—several cities and organizations have decided to either reduce or eliminate their use entirely. Buckingham Palace is ditching them, as is Alaska Airlines; cities like Seattle, Washington and Malibu, California have already banned them; and some multinational companies, like McDonald's, have floated the idea of phasing them out.
To fill the void, a new factory dedicated to producing paper straws is opening in Wales, The Guardian reports. Transcend Packaging, a new paper straw manufacturer, is opening a factory in Ebbw Vale, Wales, and plans to be running at full capacity by 2019. The paper straw plant will be the only one of its kind in Europe, its owners say.
The UK has been leading the charge against plastic straws over the past few months. The country plans to ban single-use plastics like straws as early as 2019. Yet plenty of people are loath to change their straw-sipping ways. While there are alternatives to plastic straws, including reusable silicone, glass, and stainless steel versions, not everyone is going to adapt to a BYO-straw world immediately. While biodegradable, disposable straws exist, they’re not common enough to be cost-effective. The UK hasn’t had a domestic producer of paper straws for decades, and has to import them from China—which is not exactly an eco-friendly process.
This is where Transcend comes in, providing a domestic supply of eco-friendly paper straws to the UK restaurants and chains that have vowed to nix their plastic straw addiction. Though McDonald's ultimately decided not to do away with plastic straws in the U.S., it is still eliminating plastic straws in its UK locations, and Transcend is set to supply paper straws to 1361 of the company's British restaurants beginning in September.
The European Union has also proposed a ban on single-use plastics [PDF], so paper straws will no doubt be in even higher demand in the next few years, meaning that Transcend’s factory probably won’t remain the only one of its kind for long.
[h/t The Guardian]