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‘Sector first’ as Suffolk pubs group launches compostable straws drive

PUBLISHED: 13:06 24 August 2018 | UPDATED: 14:26 31 August 2018

The new compostable straws being used by Greene King Picture: JOANNA KRECKLER

The new compostable straws being used by Greene King Picture: JOANNA KRECKLER

Greene King

A Suffolk-based pubs group is introducing compostable straws across its estate in what’s thought to be a sector first.

Greene King says the measures it is taking will remove more than 30m plastic straws a year from use Picture: JULIE KEMPGreene King says the measures it is taking will remove more than 30m plastic straws a year from use Picture: JULIE KEMP

Greene King in Bury St Edmunds says it is introducing the PLA straws across its entire UK estate of 1,750 pubs, as part of its pledge to send zero waste to landfill by 2020, removing more than 30m plastic straws a year from use.

Earlier this year, the brewing and pubs business removed recyclable plastic straws from the bar and only served them on demand, resulting in a 60% reduction in their use.

In what’s thought to be the first such initiative in the hospitality industry, it has now worked with waste partner SWRnewstar to set up a unique ‘closed loop’ system which involves its PLA straws being separated out, taken back through its supply chain and decomposed in an ‘In Vessel composter’ (IVC) at a commercial composting facility.

PLA, which is made from plant-based materials such as sugar cane and corn starch, decomposes naturally in a controlled composting environment in as little as 12 weeks, using the same microorganisms that decompose organic materials. The decomposed straws will be recycled into nutrient-rich soil which can be used to fertilise plants and crops.

Pubs and brewing group Greene King is launching a compostable straws initiative Picture: GREGG BROWNPubs and brewing group Greene King is launching a compostable straws initiative Picture: GREGG BROWN

Communications director Greg Sage said the firm was committed to reducing its impact on the environment and reducing single use plastics. “We have taken the time to listen to our customers as 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,” he said.

Charles Miers, chief executive of Footprint, which provides information on responsible business and sustainability for the foodservice, hospitality and grocery retail supply chains, said its investigations cast doubt on the integrity of plastic-free straw pledges and found little evidence that eco-friendly straws were being disposed of in the most responsible way. “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.”

Andy Butler, chief executive officer, SWRnewstar 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 last 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.”

Southwold-based brewer Adnams introduced compostable straws to its managed pubs last autumn.

The company is also looking into reducing plastics use in other areas, for example removing the plastic rings from its multipack cans for a more wildlife-friendly single-layer film.

An Adnams spokeswoman said: “We do still try to discourage the use of straws and customers have to ask for one. We continually explore other options and alternatives to ensure the most responsible and sustained solution, as well as exploring alternatives for our other plastic packaging in the company.”

Norfolk brewer Woodfordes has been using paper straws at its brewery tap, The Fur and Feather in Woodbastwick, since last October. It has also stopped selling drinks which come in plastic bottles, such as Robinsons Fruit Shoot.

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