Over the last few months brands all over the UK have been announcing plans to completely ditch plastic straws in their products in favour of their more environmentally friendly paper counterparts. From fast food chains like McDonalds to high street coffee vendors such as Starbucks and Costa, this trend seems to be spreading rapidly and has been gathering quite a bit of attention from the press. What’s the cause of this sudden movement to get rid of plastic straws, and are paper straws really going to solve the problem?
What was wrong with plastic straws?
The biggest problem with plastic straws, and the one that has caused the recent policy changes, is the impact they have on water pollution and marine life. For many years plastic straws have been given away freely with no second thought whatsoever, but little did we know that not only are they very rarely recycled, an alarmingly large amount of them end up in the ocean. Plastic can be very toxic to sea life, with the likelihood of an animal surviving after ingesting it at around 50%. With straws specifically, there is an additional risk of them becoming lodged in the gullet or airways, such as with the disturbing video of a plastic straw being removed from a turtle’s nostril which went viral back in 2015. The Marine Conservation Society estimates the UK uses 8.5 billion straws every year which are among the top 10 items found in beach clean-ups.
How is paper better?
The biggest advantage paper has over plastic is that it’s biodegradable and breaks down quickly in water. Plastics on the other hand never completely degrade, instead they only break down to microplastics, which can be extremely harmful to animals. Paper straws are also more environmentally friendly to produce and are easier to recycle, giving them a smaller carbon footprint overall.
Are there any other options?
Bioplastics are another option that some companies have started using, which are plastics that are completely biodegradable. There are however some concerns over the chemicals released as these break down, and they are considerably more expensive than standard plastic straws.
Another alternative that has been gaining popularity is reusable straws, made from materials like metal and bamboo. These are promoted in a similar way as reusable coffee cups, empowering consumers to take personal responsibility for minimising their own waste.
What do coffee shops need to know?
As the big brands start ditching plastics, consumers are becoming more and more aware of the ecological issues relating to the waste products of their favourite treats. Small businesses such as independent coffee shops and restaurants need to make sure they keep up with this to avoid being branded as unethical. Straws are just one of the aspects to consider, along with things like coffee cup recycling that we have written about in a previous blog post.
If your business is just starting out this is actually a great opportunity to demonstrate that you’re an ethically considerate establishment right from the beginning. Paper straws could even be a good branding opportunity by having your name or logo printed on them.
If you’re planning on selling cold drinks alongside the traditional hot coffee options, you’re going to need a machine that can produce a wide variety of both hot and cold beverages without compromising on quality. The WMF Dynamic Milk system allows you to automatically create drinks using both hot and cold milks, with a wide array of different milk foam consistencies. Dynamic milk function is available on many of WMF coffee machines.
Download a brochure to see the full range of WMF coffee machines and related products.