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Factory making paper drinking straws to open in UK

By Angus McNeice in London | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2018-06-19 00:07

A United Kingdom packaging company is opening a factory in Britain where it will use machinery from China to make paper drinking straws.

The company said it will supply the McDonald’s fast food chain and other companies in Britain that want to ditch plastic straws because of environmental concerns.

Demand for paper straws and other alternatives to plastic has soared in the UK since China banned imports of plastic waste, and after people became more aware of plastic pollution in the oceans.

Transcend Packaging will begin production of paper straws later this year. The company will employ 30 people at its plant in Ebbw Vale, Wales.

On Friday, McDonald’s announced the phased rollout of paper straws at all of its 1,361 restaurants in the UK and Ireland. The rollout will be complete in 2019. The company said 1.8 million straws are used in its UK restaurants every day.

“McDonald’s is committed to using our scale for good and working to find sustainable solutions for plastic straws globally,” said Francesca DeBiase, vice-president of global supply chain and sustainability at McDonald’s. “We hope this work will support industry-wide change.”

The UK used to send 540,000 metric tons of scrap plastic to China annually but China stopped accepting such imports in January on environmental grounds.

Britons realized the huge scale of the UK’s waste plastic exports through media reports after China stopped importing the material, just as people also learned about the impact of plastic pollution on the world’s oceans through the BBC documentary Blue Planet II.

In February, UK Prime Minister Theresa May said the government will target the nation’s “throwaway culture” and eliminate single-use plastics by 2042.

British campaigns to end the use of plastic straws received huge public support.

Mark Varney, head of sales at Transcend, said the company is talking to more than 20 well-known brands in the UK that want to transition to paper straws. The UK government estimates that around 8.5 billion plastic straws are thrown away in Britain each year.

“It’s evident that people want to get away from plastic straws,” Varney said. “We did some research and found out that there are no paper straw manufacturers in Europe, so we thought we’d fill that gap.”

He said paper straws currently being sold in the UK have a high cost to the environment because they are imported and such imports have a carbon footprint.

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