Restaurants, luxury brands ditch plastic for sturdy, dark paper straws in central Japan

The sturdy paper straws that have been used even by luxury brands are seen in Kofu Town on July 16, 2021. (Mainichi / Satoru Yamamoto)

KOFU – A new type of black paper straw developed by a Japanese non-profit organization is gaining popularity for its sturdy structure preventing it from getting soggy in drinks and lacking a distinctive paper smell.

The “forestraw” developed by the non-profit association incorporated in Yamanashi prefecture, central Japan, has been adopted by some national restaurant chains as part of measures to move away from plastics. Sales volumes for fiscal year 2021 have so far reached 1.5 times the total for the previous fiscal year.

The straws were developed by the Microplastic Measurements Office in Kofu City, which is made up of individuals linked to four companies involved in the wholesale and printing of paper. It took about 2 years to design the straws made from wooden materials from prefectural forests, and put them on sale for the first time in March 2020.

According to the group, because the paper straws developed so far have a distinct paper taste when used and tend to fall apart when left in drinks for long periods of time, the products have been avoided. by some companies. The group was told by people with links to restaurants and bars that some customers expressed that they were so bothered by the lipstick marks left on paper straws that they took them home.

It is for this reason that the group chose a special black-brown ink for the straws. Its color means lipstick tones are not noticeable and the colors will not fade when placed in water. The ink is said to be extracted from plants and is not harmful to the body.

The association has also partnered with a company with special technology to make the straws even more difficult to soak. Three layers of thin paper are glued with glue, then wrapped to prevent them from coming apart. To prove that they are made from wood materials from appropriately managed forests, the internationally recognized Forest Stewardship Council logo is imprinted along the straws.

The dedication to quality means that the straws cost around five times the cost of standard plastic straws. Despite this, family-owned restaurant chain Denny’s has been using them at its outlets in Yamanashi Prefecture since August 2020, and from August 2021, it has also introduced them to stores in Tokyo’s Adachi district. He intends to expand their adoption to his other restaurants in the capital in the future.

The public relations department of Seven & i Food Systems Co., the Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo-based company that operates Denny’s restaurants, told the Mainichi Shimbun that the straws were receiving particularly positive reviews from customers: “They are very strong and do not get soft, and they are comfortable to use without feeling like they are touching the lips (as is the case with plastic straws). ”

The association claims that since July 2020, 20 of the high-end French fashion brand Chanel’s stores in Japan have been using the straws to take care of repeat customers. European car dealers in Tokyo have also been using them since September this year. They also received inquiries from a luxury Japanese food restaurant in Yokohama.

During fiscal year 2020, the group sold 201,000 straws. By the end of October of fiscal 2021, sales had grown steadily and 272,000 straws had been sold. Inquiries continue to come in and the group is reportedly receiving around 50 phone calls about them each month.

Among the factors driving the growing interest is the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) initiative, which includes among their targets calls for companies to engage in efforts to move away. the use of plastic. Amid calls for a paperless society, companies in the paper industry and others are hoping the straws will spark interest in the material. In the future, the association intends to display the straws at hotel equipment fairs and sell them as promotional items for companies interested in protecting the environment.

The association’s director told Mainichi Shimbun of his hopes for the product, saying, “We want interest in environmental issues and paper products to spread to everyone.”

(Japanese original by Satoru Yamamoto, Kofu Office)

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