A partnership between Finnish eco materials company Sulapac and Dubai-based sustainability startup BIRD Collaborative has seen millions of sustainable straws made from a patented wood chip and plant resin delivered to luxury hotels, restaurants, wellness centres and clubs in the United Arab Emirates since 2021.
Hotels already offering the sustainable straws as part of the guest experience include The St. Regis Downtown Dubai, Four Seasons Resort Dubai and Caesars Palace Dubai. High-end restaurants and wellness centre clients include Iris Lounge and Bar Du Port (managed by Addmind), Tashas Restaurants, Flamingo Room, and Avli (which is managed by Tashas Group).
At The St. Regis Downtown Dubai, the straws are being used in all restaurants and bars, in-room dining services and supplied with takeaways.
“We are delighted to partner with BIRD Collaborative and move towards a more sustainable operation here at The St. Regis Downtown Dubai. We all need to focus on sustainability and simple solutions, like using alternatives to conventional plastic for everyday products, are an easy starting point,” explains Raja Zeidan, the hotel’s General Manager.
Local regulations limiting or phasing out the use of single-use plastic cups, lids, cutlery, stirrers and food containers are being intriduced to counter marine waste.
Meanwhile, campaigns against single-use plastics are being launched by private and public corporations. In 2020, Dubai Airport imposed a full ban on single-use plastics and Abu Dhabi – the largest of the seven Emirates and capital of the UAE – is to ban all single-use plastics by the end of 2022 under legislation designed to change public perceptions and create a more sustainable and cleaner environment.
James Thompson, Executive Assistant F&B at Caesars Palace Dubai, comments: “The UAE government is always driving forward with great initiatives, and the move towards sustainability is a positive one. Hospitality as an industry has a tremendous role to play in driving this change at many levels.
“Through food and beverage particularly, the hospitality sector has an opportunity to educate, bring awareness for and affect behavioural change in small ways – like reducing the demand for single-use plastics. Moving to eco-friendly straws is a small step in the right direction and we are committed to collaborate on on-going sustainability initiatives in the city.”
Made of wood chips from industrial side streams and plant-based binders, the sustainable straws by Sulapac are supplied by BIRD Collaborative, a UAE-based startup specialized in supplying real plastic alternatives to the GCC market. The straws are industrially compostable and biodegrade without leaving permanent microplastics behind, becoming CO2, water and biomass.
Nabil Mhanna, BIRD founder, says: “We are serious about sustainability. It took us years to find an alternative to conventional plastic that is truly sustainable and leaves no microplastics that choke our beloved Earth.
“We are really proud of our partnership with Sulapac, they offer the best alternatives to traditional plastic backed by science and sustainable innovation. Also, the UAE government is doing a great job in launching awareness campaigns that work in the favour of all sustainability companies who truly want to make a difference, however, the availability of user-friendly sustainable straws has been a challenge.”
“What we are seeing is a third wave in the evolution of straws. First, people became aware of how harmful traditional single-use plastic straws are for the environment. Then, people tried paper straws and found them very frustrating to use as they get soggy and break before their drink is even finished. Now, more user-friendly and sustainable options are finally available. This makes it easier for people to make the switch from not using conventional plastic and helps reduce plastic waste,” says Dr. Suvi Haimi, CEO and Co-founder of Sulapac.
According to the manucturer, Sulapac straws can be used for up to 24 hours without becoming soggy and are reported by users to offer a unique and pleasant feel.
To minimise its own carbon footprint, Sulapac has a policy of manufacturing products made from its unique material in local markets, and has begun manufacturing cutlery in the UAE for local distribution.