Specialty paper mill praises 'no plastic' straw movement

KAUKAUNA, Wis. (WBAY) -- The ‘No Plastic’ straw movement across the nation is having an impact on local paper mills.

As Starbucks and McDonalds transition away from using plastic straws, Expera Specialty Solutions, a local specialty paper mill, says the eco-friendly push is good for business.

“The specialty paper industry in the state of Wisconsin is very strong right now and across the nation, so it’s these types of efforts that continue to really strengthen our industry,” said Addie Teeters, communication manager for Expera Specialty Solutions.

“It’s an opportunity for us to strengthen the industry and it’s an opportunity for us to create relevance for us again,” said Zack Leimkuehler, director of product development for Expera Specialty Solutions.

Leimkuehler said when people drive passed one of its four Expera paper mills in Wisconsin, most people don’t know they make everything from food packaging products to paper straws and utensils.

“On the outside, somewhat small paper mills really touch the world in a global way and a tangible everyday product way and that is exciting,” said Leimkuehler.

Leimkuehler said paper straws are nothing new for them because clients have asked them to make them in the past. He said people used paper straws before using plastic ones. However, when big companies make the shift away from plastic straws, it prompts the specialty paper mill to be more innovative with the product.

“We are continuing to push the performance of the product to make it better because if a consumer doesn’t like the paper straw, they probably aren’t going to use it,” said Leimkuehler. “You have to make them enjoy that experience in order for that change to occur.”

Teeters said that change is also prompted through government initiated plastic bans where communities no longer want residents using plastic bags or bottles.

“We are seeing that with consumers as well. They want their products to be packaged in something they can put in a recycle bin or can put in a composting pile,” said Teeters. “So when you see those trends amp up, that’s when we start to see additional business.”

“Yes, paper straws were here a long time ago, but as anything, we innovate and change over time,” said Leimkuehler. “A lot of people don't like a paper straw today, but that doesn't mean you won't like it tomorrow because we are a company that works with the brand owner to make changes, to make it better."