In May 2019, The Council of the European Union has adopted a directive which introduces new restrictions on certain single-use plastic products. Under the new rules, single-use plastic plates, cutlery, straws, balloon sticks and cotton buds will be banned by 2021.

Today in the European Union, 36.4 billion plastic straws are used, what means that each year 7.280.000 kilometers of straws are produced, used and wasted, which makes a weight of the waste of 10.920 tons. The German ?Umweltministerium“ (Ministry of the environment) states that plastic straws are among the most items found in the oceans.

Most drinking straws are used by the beverage industry and the big fast-food franchises. The needs for these industries is a single-use product which has no taste properties of its own, which does not disperse in the different drinks and which is relatively cheap.

Due to mass production and very high grade of automization the price for a plastic straw on the market is far below 1 ct each, whereas the production of straws made of alternative materials is still in the implementation phase and, costs a multiple of the plastic straw price.

There are some alternatives to substitute plastic as the raw material for straws:

  1. Renewable raw materials like bamboo or straw. Although this is a natural way to produce straws, it leads to other environmental problems (monocultures, substitution of other vegetables etc.). Also, the standardization on a natural product is not easy to fulfil.
  2. Straws for multiple use, made of stainless steel or glass. It is self-explanatory why these kinds of straws are applicable for bars and for home-use, but not for industrial use.
  3. Eatable straws like Macaroni-straws are more or less ?Party Equipment“, not very useful for industrial needs.
  4. Paper straws are the rational solution for the industry. They are standardized, have no taste of their own and are the cheapest way to substitute plastic straws. Nevertheless, they, at least, cost a multiple of plastic straws.

There are two ways of producing a paper straw.

  1. Tube Extrusion: The paper will be produced in form of a tube, which is cut into single straws. This technique is still in innovation stage and the production still is very expensive.
  2. Tube Winding: Multiple stripes of paper are to be wound around a rod by means of a belt (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6O-Pc4E6Q8). This kind of machines is already on the market, the offered paper straws are made this way.

What now makes paper straws so much more expensive than plastic straws? There is more than one reason. The production of plastic straws is a proven process and has been improved through the years. Paper winding machines are relatively new and have some cost-generating weak points. One of those points is the belt, which winds around the rod to bring the paper stripes together. The rod has a diameter of 6 mm and does not move, so the physical load on the belt is very high at this point. Additionally, paper is a very abrasive medium and stress the belt surface, too. Conventional belts have to be changed once a day (minimum).

Here Nitta has recognized a point to lower cost for the machine operating companies. After intensive development and testing on different machines, Nitta Corporation can now present a belt which outperforms all competing products by multiples of lifetime. A FDA-certified version with the same properties will be presented soon.

This new Nitta belting solution saves a lot of money. The maintenance intervals can be extended from 1 day to up to a week, and the number of spares to be held and paid for falls to a fraction (compared to the today’s standard). This makes paper straw production a lot more competitive.

2021 will come sooner than you might think, so please contact Nitta Industries Europe GmbH for more detailed information. Be among the first to profit from the new EU directive.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.

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