An Estonian company named Reedest, which makes disposable drinking straws from local reeds, received 3 million euros from investors to develop an automatic production line. The goal is to start producing up to one million natural drinking straws per day in Estonia.
Grete Riim, Chief Executive Officer at Reedest, explained that on average, 400 drinking straws can be made from one stalk of reeds. "Thanks to the support of French and Estonian investors, we are developing an automatic production line in Pärnu County, Ahaste Village, to process nearly 2,500 stalks per day. With this volume, we can produce up to a million drinking straws per day in Estonia," said Riim. She added that according to the current plan, large-scale production will kick off in May 2024.
French investors who contribute to the development of the company fund sustainability-oriented projects in France as well. "Reedest’s approach is interesting in the field of green trends, and investors are glad to be a part of such production in Estonia," said the representative of the foreign investment Triinu Bucheton.
European Union banned the use of plastic straws in all of its member countries in 2021, but according to the founders of the company, there is a lack of good alternatives. "The main replacement for a plastic straw is one made out of paper, but this is not user-friendly as it quickly soaks in beverages. There are also reusable straws on the market, but they are often too expensive for hotels, restaurants and caterers. In addition, it can get difficult to maintain reusable straws’ hygiene," said the CEO Grete Riim.
On Reedest’s production line, reeds are processed mechanically, and no additives are used while producing a drinking straw. Therefore, the straw is 100% natural and can be thrown into a biodegradable food waste container after its use. Straw decomposes into compost in less than a year.
Grete Riim described that the production of drinking straws may seem as a rather effortless process, but in fact it has provided engineers with challenges for four years. "Since no reed plant is the same in terms of shape, diameter or color, large-scale production requires innovative industrial automation that uses sensors and machine learning algorithms to account for reed variability," Riim explained.
In order to fulfill the company’s goal - the production of one million disposable straws per day - the company needs to cut reeds on an area of about 200 hectares per year. According to a study conducted in 2007, the total area of reeds in Estonia is more than 27,000 hectares. Reeds that grow as weeds also need to be cut to ensure the diversity of the biota. Since the reeds are favorable nesting places for birds, Reedest company is not cutting reeds during the nesting season.
The founders of Reedest have experience in the production of natural drinking straws since 2015, when the first known reed drinking straws were brought to the market, named Pillirookõrs.