Finnish firms to tackle plastic pollution with renewable straws

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HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland’s Stora Enso, one of the world’s largest pulp and paper makers, said on Tuesday it had joined forces with local startup Sulapac to develop renewable and biodegradable straws to combat the global plastic waste problem.

European Union lawmakers moved in October to ban widely-used, throw-away plastics such as straws and cotton buds, and put greater pressure on manufacturers to recycle in an effort to clear up ocean pollution.

The new straws, targeted to go on sale in the second quarter of 2019, are made of wood and natural binders that can be recycled via industrial composting, and they biodegrade should they end up in seawaters.

“Billions of plastic straws are produced and used every week ... This is the world’s most sustainable straw that can be produced on an industrial scale,” Sulapac founder and chief executive Suvi Haimi said in a statement.

Stora Enso, known for supplying the paperboard boxes for Apple iPhones, has shifted its focus in recent years away from paper production, a declining industry in Europe due to the rise of reading in digital formats.

The majority of Stora’s profit comes from pulp and packaging board. With Sulapac’s biodegradable straw, Stora Enso expects to complement its biocomposite portfolio which currently includes, for example, renewable caps and closures.

“Eco-awareness is a strong driver for consumer demand, and our customers want help in replacing non-renewable materials,” Stora Enso spokesman Hannu Kasurinen said.

A prototype of the new straw will be presented on Tuesday at Slush, a startup event bringing about 20,000 tech-oriented investors and entrepreneurs to Helsinki.

Reporting by Anne Kauranen and Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Mark Potter