Nitta Industries Europe GmbH has revealed a new winding belt for the manufacture of drinking straws from paper.

The newly developed belt, SE-XA-PGG-F, reportedly has a substantially extended lifetime, meaning that it doesn't have to be replaced as often as alternatives. The product has also been manufactured with FDA rubber.

This announcement comes off the back of an EU directive from May 2019 on the topic of reducing single-use plastic products, including plastic straws – the industry has until 2021 to implement this directive in full. This has led many industry figures and brand owners to recognize paper straws as a viable alternative.

According to Nitta, most manufacturers of paper straws currently use machines in which multiple paper webs are wound around a mandrel using a belt. The drawback in this process, the company argues, is the “very short” lifetime of the belt, which can be as short as one day. In Nitta’s view, the downtime for the paper straw machinery due to frequent belt changes results in higher production costs compared with plastic.

By their nature, straws have small diameters, resulting in increased bending for the belt and high abrasion to the belt surface by the paper. Additionally, the belt must cope with a high load from the stationary mandrel around which the paper is wound during the manufacturing process.

The company claims to have developed “a seamless belt, ensuring the highest performance in paper straw production.” In close co-operation with machine manufacturers, Nitta’s winding belt SE-XA-PGG-F has a unique rubber cover – a compound that meets the extraction limits specified in the FDA 21 CFR177.2600 for rubber articles in contact with aqueous and fatty foods. The innovation is based on Nitta's SEB technology for joint-free belts with no end connection. The belts apparently have longer service lives than competing products, with correspondingly longer machine production times.

"For manufacturers of paper drinking straws, the longer service life of the belts means lower cost of ownership," says Michael Planz, sales manager for Nitta Industries Europe. "The demand for paper drinking straws is expected to rise dramatically in early 2021, and the production capacities currently available will not be able to satisfy it. This development will benefit those businesses which are prepared to explore new paths with innovative products and solutions first. Nitta has just the right belt for this."