No paper straws have been made in Britain for the last several decades. But that is about to change as a group of packaging industry veterans prepare to open a dedicated paper straw production line in Ebbw Vale, Wales, making hundreds of millions of straws a year for McDonald’s and other food companies as they prepare for a ban on plastic straws in the UK.
“We spotted a huge opportunity, and we went for it,” said Mark Varney, sales and marketing director of the newly created paper straw manufacturer Transcend Packaging. “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.”
Varney and his business partners, all stalwarts of the packaging industry, watched as chains including Costa Coffee, Wetherspoons and Pizza Express announced plans to phase out plastic straws in favour of biodegradable paper.
“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.”
So Varney and his partners set about opening what they reckon will be the only paper straw production plant in Europe. “We set up this company to give the the customers what they actually want: biodegradable paper straws made in the UK,” he said.
Transcend signed a deal last week to supply straws to 1,361 McDonald’s outlets from September. The deal was agreed before Transcend has made its first straw as the company is waiting on delivery of machines from China. McDonald’s uses 1.8m straws a day in the UK. The Northern Irish factory of the Finnish packaging company Huhtamaki will also supply McDonald’s but is understood to not yet have paper straw production capabilities.