The pledge to introduce biodegradable polylactic acid (PLA) straws comes as part of Greene King’s promise to send zero waste to landfill by 2020 – removing more than 30m plastic straws from use per year.
PLA, made from plant-based materials such as sugar cane and cornstarch, decomposes naturally in a controlled composting environment in as little as 12 weeks.
The decomposed straws will be recycled into nutrient rich soil, which can be used to fertilise plants and crops.
Greene King's announcement follows news reported by The Morning Advertiser that the Government will move forward with suggestions to use taxes to reduce wasteful single-use plastics.
Additionally, there have been numerous waste reduction efforts across the industry, including the banning of plastic straws by many pub groups and a joint campaign by the British Institute of Innkeeping, UKHospitality, the British Beer & Pub Association, and The Morning Advertiser to reduce the use of plastic straws and stirrers.
Importance of green issues
Greene King communications director Greg Sage said: “We are committed to reducing our impact on the environment and reducing single-use plastics in our business.
“At the beginning of the year, we removed our recyclable straws from the bar and provided them only on demand, which saw a 60% reduction, while we looked at a more sustainable alternative.
“We have taken the time to listen to our customers because we know how important this issue is.
“Our closed-loop solution will ensure all PLA straws are correctly disposed of and decomposed into nutrient-rich soil, providing peace of mind for our customers who like the choice of a straw with their drink.”
Greene King has worked with waste partner SWRnewstar to devise a system whereby PLA straws are segregated at the pub at which they’re used, taken back through its supply chain and decomposed in an in-vessel composter at a commercial facility.
SWRnewstar CEO Andy Butler said: “Partnering with forward-thinking businesses that have a shared passion in delivering innovative and sustainable solutions, and that crucially walk the talk, is key to SWRnewstar.
“Over the past five years we have worked very closely with Greene King in a number of innovative ways and in so doing have helped them stay at the leading edge of both distribution models and the environment agenda within the hospitality industry.
“We are very proud to be part of the PLA straw closed-loop solution, which is the latest example of our successful collaboration.”
Initial doubt over straw pledges
Charles Miers, co-founder and chief executive officer at Footprint – a provider of information on responsible business and sustainability for the foodservice, hospitality and grocery retail supply chains – added: “Earlier this year, a Footprint investigation cast doubt on the integrity of plastic-free straw pledges.
“Our review found little evidence that eco-friendly straws were actually being disposed of in the most responsible way.
“Some businesses admitted to not actually composting compostable straws at all while others conceded they had little idea where recyclable paper straws were ending up.
“Having been on this journey with Greene King, it was refreshing to see the business hold back until an unequivocally water-tight solution was implemented with its waste partner.
“We’re really looking forward to monitoring the positive results.”