Can paper straws prove to be a viable alternative to plastic straws?

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

Plastic straws... what are the alternatives? Pic:getty/alexandernovikov
Plastic straws... what are the alternatives? Pic:getty/alexandernovikov
Single use, disposable plastic straws are under fire as consumers become more conscious about their impact on the environment. Tetra Pak, therefore, has pledged to launch a paper straw by the end of the year - but how easy is this to do?

The straw will be designed for use with its portion-sized carton packages, although it will be down to Tetra Pak’s customers whether they choose to use a plastic or paper straw with their brand.

Strength and resilience 

Tetra Pak says there are a number of significant challenges in producing a paper straw that has the  properties required by brands: first and foremost replicating the resilient properties of plastic straws.

“Straws on portion size cartons need to be sufficiently robust to withstand an aggressive distribution chain when attached to the outside of the package; they must be strong enough to pierce the package; and they have to meet all food safety requirements,” ​a spokesperson told this publication.

“In addition, we will ensure that the paper used to make the straw is responsibility sourced. We also need to develop applicators that will work at the speeds required. Therefore, we have set up a cross functional product development team to address all aspects of the project, which they are driving as a priority.”

Tetra Pak says it’s too early to determine how its paper straw would be priced: however, it acknowledges the need to be competitive with plastic. The availability of the straw, too, will depend on customer demand but the company notes the growing demand for plastic alternatives.

“Anti-plastic sentiment is growing louder and stronger globally and governments are striving to reduce the use of plastics,”​ said the spokesperson.

“Ultimately, whether or not to use a paper straw is our customer’s choice, but it is important for us to provide that option.”

Plastic straws

Plastic straws are under fire as anti-plastic sentiment grows. Certain cities and regions have already banned them, while the UK is considering a nationwide ban on sales. Companies such as Bacardi, Diageo and Pernod Ricard are eliminating their use across their businesses.

Meanwhile, other alternatives to plastic straws are springing onto the market - such as FinalStraw’s​ reusable, collapsible straw and Loliware’s​ compostable and edible straws.

Tetra Pak has been trying to encourage consumers to push straws ‘back in the pack’ once empty, so they can be collected along with the rest of the package. Now, it is developing a paper straw that will be suitable for use on its portion-size carton packages.

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