The age of the plastic straw is now coming to an end. With European legislation outlawing the use of single-use plastic across the continent by the end of 2021, it’s time for businesses to find an alternative.
Enter paper straws, the most popular alternative to plastic. Created from a regenerative, compostable source, paper straws are disposable and low-impact for the environment.
The best bit? When made with Tembo Paper’s cutting-edge production methods, paper straws can deliver an enjoyable drinking experience, too.
Here, we want to tell you about one of our most recent breakthroughs: u-shaped paper straws. These are paper straws that bend, to make packaging, storage, and drinking easier—and to match the product experience that consumers are familiar with.
Thanks to our unique manufacturing expertise, we made our u-shaped paper straws one of the most sustainable paper straws on the market. Let us show you how we did it.
Why is there a need for new paper straws?
The world is finally waking up to the reality of environmental change—and the move away from disposable plastics is at the heart of this transition. If your business wants to keep up with the pace, it's time to offer customers the sustainable products they demand.
Right now, there are three reasons why high-quality paper straws are needed:
- European legislation. Since July 2021, a ban on single-use plastic straws has been enforced across the EU bloc—along with other disposable plastics. That means all businesses will need to find a biodegradable alternative to continue providing customers with single-use straws.
- Changing customer demands. Public attitudes to single-use plastics have changed. In the UK, for example, customers say they’re willing to spend more on products if it helps avoid plastic pollution. In Germany, 80% support the EU’s moves to limit single-use plastics.
- Low-quality alternatives. Customers want sustainable single-use straws that maintain the product experience they have come to love from plastic. Yet, so many conventional paper straws tend to fray, go soggy, and affect the taste of a drink. Typically, paper u-shaped straws have been even less convincing, with a tendency to break when they’re bent too far.
At Tembo, we recognise that the transition from plastic requires alternatives that are truly sustainable and a pleasure to use. Our innovative, high-quality u-shaped paper straws allow your business to offer exactly that.
The story of developing u-shaped paper straws
Developed with children’s drink cartons in mind, our u-shaped paper straws are robust, bendable, and fully-biodegradable.
Here, we want to show you how our design and manufacturing experts went above and beyond existing technologies to produce a truly unique paper straw—that’s sustainable and that delivers the best drinking experience on the market.
- Firstly, innovative design. The technologies used to produce plastic straws don’t always work on paper—but many companies continue to use them anyway. That means poor manufacturing, frequent breakages, and dissatisfied customers.
For our u-shaped straws, Tembo experts designed an entirely new production method that would respect paper’s fibrous qualities and the way the material responds to humidity. This knowledge of the material allowed us to create superior products that are longer-lasting and that offer a better customer experience.
- Unique manufacturing techniques. Tembo Group’s product developers at Tricas led the search for different ways to realise the u-shaped bend in paper. We achieved the desired effect through a four-way hammering technique that makes paper much easier to manipulate. This way, paper straws can bend without the risk of breaking.
- A commitment to problem-solving. Admittedly, the hammering technique ran the risk of the straw shaft becoming too narrow, reducing the quality of the drinking experience. But through continual testing and product refinement, we were able to create straws that worked perfectly, avoiding these potential hazards.
- Rigorous testing. Firstly, a vacuum test ensured liquid could easily pass through the straws. Then, a manual handling test guaranteed product robustness. Finally, we sent the straws to customers for their opinion. They loved them.
- Modular machinery. We don’t just produce the straws; we build the production lines behind the products too. Firstly, that means paper spiraling machines that build the straws themselves, alongside machines for gluing, drying, and boxing the products.
As part of the project focusing on u-shaped straws, our colleagues at Tembo/TDC developed specific machine modules for bending straws too, to realise a full production line.
- Collaborative product design. At Tembo, we’re proud to be a family of over 20 companies. Tricas developed the straws—while Tembo Paper and Tembo/TDC led the teams who produced the machines. We couldn’t have done it without the collaborative effort and our shared production expertise.
Why is this such a unique product?
At Tembo Paper, we build every straw—from telescopic and straight straws, as well as u-shaped straws—to be sustainable and to reach the highest quality.
This is what you can expect from all of our paper straws:
- Precision glue application keeps glue to less than 3% of the straw. We apply Henkel’s food-safe, water-resistant adhesive in the smallest possible quantities, to ensure the straws are as sustainable as possible.
- Less than 5% waste. A product is only as sustainable as its production line. We ensure we keep waste to a minimum through innovative paper cutting techniques.
- Three sheets of paper means durability—and biodegradability. Each straw lasts a guaranteed three hours in liquid, when it won’t fray, disintegrate, or leave a bad taste in your drink. Then, after disposal, it’s fully compostable.
- User-focused design. Too many paper straws are held back by design flaws—like painful lip release or weak ends that are unable to pierce cartons. We’ve designed our straws with usability as our first priority.
- Complete production line. The Tembo technology behind the straws ensures a full, fast, cost-effective production line for operators. Our machines have a footprint of just 3.6 square metres, allowing sustainable production even in limited floorspace.
What’s next for our u-shaped straws?
At Tembo Paper, we believe in continuous innovation. We’re always looking for ways to improve our straws, so we can make the drinking experience even more enjoyable for users and more cost effective for operators. Driven by our commitment to sustainability, we’re currently experimenting with new ways to make our u-shaped straws even more efficient, using even less material and glue.
With the days of disposable plastic behind us, it’s time that your business found a high-quality, sustainable alternative to plastic straws. We can provide exactly that. Get in touch with us to get started.