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War on plastic leaves manufacturers clutching at straws

For decades, plastic straws have been essential props for cocktail makers, smoothie lovers and fast food addicts
For decades, plastic straws have been essential props for cocktail makers, smoothie lovers and fast food addicts.
But that may be starting to change, thanks largely to vigorous environmental campaigning.
Under pressure from activists, the European Union, Britain, India and even fast food giants like McDonald’s have all made some headway towards bringing the use of plastic straws to an end.
And with public pressure growing on governments, particularly in Europe, to ban single use plastics, manufacturers are feeling the heat.
According to peer-reviewed US journal Science magazine, eight million tonnes of plastic are dumped into the Earth’s oceans and seas each year — 250 kilogrammes (550 pounds) every second.
For years, the focus of environmentalists has been on plastic bags. But plastic straws have now come into the spotlight, thanks in part to images that have gone viral on the internet.
One online video about the danger posed by seemingly innocuous straws shows a sea turtle rescued off Costa Rica getting one removed from its nostril.
The British government in April said it planned to ban the sale of single-use plastics including straws.
The European Union followed suit in late May.
In India’s commercial capital Mumbai, Burger King, McDonald’s and Starbucks were fined for violating a ban on single use plastics, an official said earlier in June.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pledged to make his country free of single use plastic by 2022.
Some corporations are also taking steps.
In the UK and Ireland, McDonald’s has pledged to complete a transition to paper straws by 2019. In France, the burger giant is testing alternatives.
The Hilton hotel giant in May vowed to remove the offenders from its 650 properties by the end of 2018.
“Laid end to end, the straws saved each year in (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) would exceed the length of the River Seine,” the hotel chain said in a statement. There are alternatives to plastic straws, but they are much pricier.
The five-star Monte Carlo Palace hotel in Monaco has introduced biodegradable straws.
Others are using raw pasta and bamboo sticks.
The United States is resisting change while Europe takes the lead with biodegradable plastics made either from fossil fuels or crops such as potatoes and corn.
Some 100,000 tonnes of bioplastics were produced in 2016 in the world, according to Germany’s specialist Nova-Institute.
In 2017, biodegradable plastic production capacity rose to 800,000 tonnes globally, the European Bioplastics industrial group said.
And while this may appear to be a step in the right direction, manufacturers are concerned about the impact outright bans would have on their sales.
“It’s not a very good sign,” said Herve Millet, technical and regulatory affairs manager at PlasticsEurope, the region’s leading plastics manufacturers’ association.
“But … big corporations also have concerns over their image and they must at least try to find a way to respond to society’s expectations.”
Europe’s top plastic straws manufacturer Soyez, which is based in France, is also uncertain about how to make the transition.
“The problem isn’t new and it’s serious, so we obviously need to find alternatives,” the company’s director Pierre Soyez said.



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