How pubs can take advantage of biodegradable straws

By Georgina Townshend contact

- Last updated on GMT

Wake up call: the public is now more aware than ever about the dangers of plastic straws
Wake up call: the public is now more aware than ever about the dangers of plastic straws
As more pubs are taking the plunge and ejecting plastic straws from their bars, The Morning Advertiser talks to two major suppliers of biodegradable straws to find out more about the greener alternatives available on the market.

Paper straws

Fancy Straws

Material: Food-grade biodegradable paper

Biodegrade time: Around six months

Price: 3p per average-size straw

Fancy Straws is a company that started in 2013 with the purpose of promoting a more environmentally friendly alternative to plastic drinking straws. The company's founders, being keen participants of the 'greener' sea sports (sailing, wind surfing and paddle boarding), saw first hand the problems single-use plastics are causing to the world's shores and seas.

Director Stuart Moore said the first time a pub enquired about obtaining his paper straws was three months ago, just after the now infamous Blue Planet II​ episode, which highlighted what plastic is doing to the oceans.

"There has certainly been a big uplift in the number of enquiries, and also that has reflected in an increase in sales as well," he said.

"I think we are at the stage where people are becoming aware of the problems associated with one-use plastic and looking for alternatives.

"Although I'm sure there are still an awful lot of stock rooms full of plastic straws, what's most encouraging is that we are starting to get pubs purchasing greener alternatives, which is excellent, especially because they probably struggle more than another industry, particularly if they are more focused on just selling drinks.

"Before the publicity and campaigns​ that were going on, I don't think we had any proper drinking pubs make any enquiries, so it's really good that that has started to change."

Moore said the time his straws take to biodegrade is subjective, due to how well the landfill is managed, but he estimates that if there's good conditions, and a well managed landfill, they would biodegrade in about six months.


As many are aware, paper straws cost more than plastic. However, Moore said this could help publicans think more about when they give them out.

He explained: "There's enough awareness now, so the public will now drive it by asking for paper straws, or particularly asking not to give them plastic straws. I think the extra cost of the paper straw, you could offset some of that by being a bit more responsible about how they are handed out. 

"What you have to remember is plastic straws have been so cheap that a lot of catering companies actually give them away with almost any drink. And because they don't cost very must, landlords are also just as happy to let people help themselves.

"I think the fact that paper straws are more expensive than the plastic might help the pub industry think more carefully about when they hand the straws out.

"Even with the fact that the paper straws are biodegradable, you are still ending up with waste. There still needs to be responsibility about how many you use. 

The company just sells paper straws, and has a selection of 100 different designs, including short cocktail straws and milkshake straws.

His best-selling straws are probably what they companies were selling at the beginning of the previous century, the barber stripe retro red and white straws.

However, just being green isn't enough, said Moore.

"It has to be fit for purpose. The benefit of paper straws is probably hygiene. You can get multi use stainless steel, or bamboo, but on a commercial basis you need to be able to reliably clean them, which would be very difficult."

PLA Straws


Material: PLA is a compostable plant-based (corn starch)

Biodegrade time: Les than 12 weeks in commercial composting

Price: Around 1.5p (based on a case of 6,500 priced at £99.12. Distributor prices may vary)

Vegware was founded in 2008, and has won more than 60 awards, including the Queen’s Award for Enterprise twice, and is now sold in more than 25 countries. 

The company saw a 35% increase in sales of cases of its 5mm PLA straws from 2016 to 2017.

Vegware’s plant-based catering disposables are designed to break down with food waste in under 12 weeks in commercial composting. However, successful composting requires warmth, oxygen, microbes and moisture – perfect conditions that are created at industrial composting facilities and in on-site composting systems. 

There are many industrial composting facilities all around the UK that accept used Vegware compostable disposables.

The challenge is that there are not always collection routes available to businesses. Vegware has been working actively to change that and, in 2017, launched Close the Loop in Scotland, Vegware’s own composting collection service.

Vegware is also currently developing composting collection services in areas of England as well and will be rolling out more routes this year to take Vegware’s compostable packaging and food waste to industrial composting.

Finite resources

Sales director Teresa Suter said: The past year has been a wake-up call. Now is the time for consumers to tell food businesses that sustainability really does matter. Vegware has seen huge sales growth as companies look for plant-based alternatives to conventional plastics.

“The earth has finite resources. Disposables are used for such a short time, so it makes sense to switch to renewable materials, reserving conventional plastics for applications where they can’t be easily replaced.

"Lots of people enjoy using plant-based materials, knowing they are a simple way to reduce carbon and help their business go green. But here’s the exciting part. When the Wright brothers invented the aeroplane, there were no airports, and look at air infrastructure now.

"By choosing compostables, foodservice businesses can actively drive changes in UK recycling. The more compostables there are in use, the more we can work with the waste sector to extend collections UK-wide.”

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