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Indonesian straw maker expected rejection, but not at such a rapid pace


The leader of an Indonesian plastic straw manufacturer certainly has seen opposition to his products growing, but even he is surprised by the momentum now taking place.

CEO John Sidanta operates Primastraw of Tangerang, Indonesia, supplying well-known retailers with millions and millions of straws each year.

The 20-year-old company uses about 1,000 tons of plastic each year to make straws for consumer giants such as Starbucks, Wendy's, Dunkin' Donuts and Burger King for stores in Europe and Japan.

"We anticipate the rejection, but not as massive as today's," Sidanta said in an email interview.

He said the current climate is a result of a "combination of the awareness of communities to the plastic pollution and [the] recent [action of] China's banning the import of waste."

But blaming plastic straws for the pollution problem is "not entirely fair."

"The human littering problem [is] the root cause of the pollution, not the products or material itself," Sidanta said.

The need for straws, Sidanta said, is not going to go away and "can't be entirely eliminated." That's because the functionality of the straw, in certain situations, is still required, he said.

But he does see a future where different materials will become more popular.

"The future of straws made from plastic polymer will be replaced by either PLA [polylactic acid] or paper ... or any other sustainable materials," he said.

Straws, Sidanta noted, are only a small part of the plastic footprint created by the human misbehavior of littering. He believes more studies are needed to determine the best strategy for use of replacement materials for straws. That's because some material might be good for the short term but not the long term, or for one use but not for another use.

Despite making a living by manufacturing plastic straws, Sidanta said he believes the recent move by Starbucks to eventually eliminate straws is "right to do."

"But I'm expecting they can [entirely] ditch the need of straws for [most of] their cold drinks at their global stores," he said.

Certain blended drinks, however, "will definitely [still] need the straws," he said, regardless of what material is used.

Primastraw employs about 100 who are kept informed by the company about the changing landscape for its products, Sidanta said.

"The shifting from manufacturing plastic base material to paper and bioplastics will be another challenge for our workers," he said.


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