Not too long ago, you couldn’t have either a party or a childhood without going through several hundred plastic straws. As the damage that single-use plastic has caused the environment has become clearer, many consumers regret the role they have inadvertently played.
But straws are still part of our everyday lives. Far from being frivolous childhood objects, they’re necessary drinking aids for many people, and magic wands for anyone looking after children. Many well-known manufacturers of soft drinks have based their whole brand identity around the way straws combine practicality and pleasure, selling their products in popular portion-sized sachets or miniature Tetrapacks for decades.
Like many plastic products, it’s not possible to simply abandon straws, but people are increasingly abandoning the companies that don’t rethink their impact on the planet.
In short, straws need to evolve. They can’t linger for thousands of years, polluting the environment and harming marine life long after they’ve outlived their usefulness, but nor can they decompose the moment they come into contact with a liquid.
That’s why Brigl & Bergmeister (B&B) has developed an environmentally friendly base material for use as an alternative to plastic drinking straws. Named for the Austrian company’s home town of Niklasdorf, the fibre-based ‘NiklaStraw’ solution combines the advantages of a traditional drinking straw with the reduced ecological footprint of a sustainable raw material. “NiklaStraw has been specially developed to replace plastic straws,” says Jürgen Schulz, managing director of sales and marketing at B&B. “The material is recyclable and will be compostable, so that alone helps to prevent environmental pollution.”
“NiklaStraw has been specially developed to replace plastic straws. The material is compostable, so that alone helps to prevent environmental pollution.”
NiklaStraw has been certified for direct contact with food by independent laboratories, and the material is regularly tested to ensure a consistently high product quality. The straws are equally suitable for hot and cold beverages, and, just as importantly, neither will turn them to unusable mush. Even through the longest cinematic blockbusters, every sip through a NiklaStraw will remain an unalloyed pleasure.
Straws are something of a departure for B&B, which made its name with label and flexible packaging papers. Then again, there aren’t too many companies that operate a thermal recycling plant to supply their factory with 100% CO2-neutral energy – in the form of steam and electricity. The environment is a wide remit. As Schulz explains, “Sustainability is one of the key drivers along our entire company policy”. It’s a perfect fit for today’s market. In fact, B&B’s hugely successful 2019, which brought its best annual results for a decade, was made possible by the company’s emphasis on developing its environmentally friendly product range, and broadening its position in the market with new paper grades and certifications. In January 2020, things went even further, as B&B factories recorded their highest ever monthly output.
Alongside NiklaStraws, two of the key new additions to B&B’s product range are Niklakett Medium PURE, a high wet strength recycled label paper made from 100% recovered fibres, and NiklaSelect PURE, a non-wet strength equivalent.
Both papers are designed to sustain the highest industry standards without any compromise when it comes to converting. The grade is currently available in 70g/m2, and can be provided with a linen-embossed ‘Fashion’ surface. “With our new PURE line we are setting a new standard for the labelling industry,” says Markus Bammer, technical managing director. “Our PURE grades are developed and designed to have the same performance through the value chain as our well-known standard products. Surface and opacity are at the highest values, and the performance in converting and labelling has proved excellent.”