The Last Straw.
Updated: Mar 31
AN INTERVIEW WITH STRAWGANIC
Any living organism is guaranteed two byproduct to their existence: natural waste and an ecological footprint. This is simply inevitable. Humans are unique in their ability to produce “man made” materials. Some materials we produce are made of naturally occurring elements (like glass). Others are made with the addition of synthetic chemicals (like plastic).
We owe some of our greatest advances in our existence to this human ability to innovate and create. Some of these Innovations have even enabled us to better the average quality of life, save lives and even extended our lifespans. Ironically though, with time some are proving to destroy the natural world and us with it.
Even Natural/ Sustainable materials still have a profound impact when produced or consumed at an unreasonable rate. However, for Environmentalists today, one of the biggest unfolding issues has only recently started to reveal itself. Synthetic waste, particularly plastic. We are finding that the impact of plastic waste to ecosystems, when it reaches our oceans, even outweigh their benefits. Marine litter harms over 600 marine species. At the rate we are now producing and consuming, by 2050 birds who mistake plastics for food would stand at an estimated 99%. Which makes its way up in our ecosystem and into our dinner tables carrying toxic micro plastics and Chemicals. Chemicals from plastic also start to leach into the Ocean as they photodegrade under the sun and by sea salts, eventually reaching waterbodies all over the world. These health harms to us have been found to impact (just to name a few) our Respiratory, Nervous, and Reproductive systems.
Single use plastic objects are commonly small in size, and this can make them appear minuscule. Out of the 400 million tons of packaging plastics (alone) produced every year, they are a great culprit of plastic waste. Plastic Packaging makes up 36% of the Global plastic production and accounts for 47% of plastic waste generated globally. Half of this waste appears to come from Asia, with China being the largest generator and closely by the USA who produces the highest plastic packing waste kg per capita (ca.45 million Mt).
As Europeans this might seem reassuring, like the problem does not lay with us, but the EU (which only represents 28 out of 50 countries on the continent) accounts for 30 Million Meters of plastic packaging waste (kg per capita). So now imagine what the 22 other countries of the European continent account for. We are all globally responsible for this crisis. And you might say “We recycle!” but in 2015 86% of plastic waste ever produced ends up in the landfills, dumps (disposed off) or into the environment (littered) while only 14% is ever recycled. Out of this 14% only 2% is effectively recycled, 8% is recycled into lower-value applications and 4% is “lost” in the process. Equally as damaging is the 12% that is incinerated, letting of harmful fumes into the environment.
The answer is avoiding plastic production all together. Which means demand for these items need to drop drastically. This can only be done when we start to demand alternatives. With growing research and movements like Zero Waste inspiring change, there are all sorts of ways individuals, companies, organisations and even governments are making strides in catching up and turning our fate around. Specifically against the phenomena of single use plastic and the rate at which humans are producing and consuming it.
Strawganic is one of these home grown companies trying to do their part and providing us with a more sustainable alternative. They have recognised the crisis with packaging plastic waste, and wanted to address an object they recognised to be a growing and unnecessary issue; single use plastic straws. Each year Straws alone account for 4% of plastic waste, with estimations between 437 million to 8.3 billion straws lining the World’s coastlines.
In 2017 a very close friend of mine, introduced me to the brand by bringing me a hand full of their glass straws. I fell in love to say the least. So did Loulou, their youngest advocate. I wanted to interview them on the blog, to give a voice to their sustainable product and bring awareness about the alternatives we have.
First off I would like to express my appreciation that you accepted to do this interview and most of all providing us with such a great alternative to the pending problem with single use plastic straws! I read that you came across a ton of plastic waste while on holiday in Bali surfing, how long ago was this and why was this such a surprise to you at the time?
This was in April 2017 at the end of a long backpacking trip. Bali was my last stop and I was shocked by the amount of plastic in the sea. In addition, the locals seemed not aware about the impact of single use plastic. However, on the same evening, I had dinner in a small restaurant in Canggu and I actually got served a glass straw. I thought this was amazing and since I never saw it before I decided to order 600 straws and try to sell it in Europe.
Do you think people really grasp there is a crisis at hand?
I think now people slowly start to wake up and realise how enormous the problem is. In 2017 when we started, people thought it was kind of a cool idea but were questioning if it was really necessary.
My best friend is a dental assistant in the U.K., she has often stressed the importance of drinking anything else than water with a straw in order to avoid tooth decay and that people with disabilities rely on theme . Before she brought this up, I hadn't seen the use in them and when I went Zero Waste I just totally avoided them, even sustainable straws. Do you come across this argument often with critics and is there any other way you explain its use when you do?
Yes we hear it quite often that people say straws are not necessary, but actually a lot of people love drinking from straws. I personally only like drinking smoothies with a straw ;). Also very often kids drink much better if they have a straw. Same applies for elderly and disabled people. And last not but least, I think the “Strawganic” looks super stylish in a cocktail or smoothie.
I was excited to read that during dinner in the village of Canggu, Bali, you were given a glass straw for your drink! I for one have never experienced this in the West in any restaurants. Was this restaurant unique to your experience? Or are Balinese conscious of plastic waste, since they are faced with it directly on their beaches? Do you think because of the lack of having to directly face it in our environment, we might be in effect less broadly conscious that an item like plastic straws are part of this crisis?
I was really surprised to get served with a glass straw because unfortunately the people in Bali are not really conscious about plastic waste at all. It happens that they just litter their waste behind the house or on the beach. However I have been back to Bali twice since and the straws are starting to get more and more popular all over the island. They even want to start banning single-use plastic this year. I’m really grateful to finally see a shift in thinking.
In the time you have started your company, what sort of reaction to the product have you gotten?
Actually we almost only get positive feedback. People seem to love the idea and that we are trying to reduce single-use plastic in the world.
Could you outline what the advantages to your straws are over single-use plastic ones we often come across?
They are discretionary reusable
They do not generate any rubbish
They are visually and functionally appealing
They are usable for hot and cold drinks
They are made of extremely durable borosilicate glass / stainless steal
They are easy to clean and can be put in the dishwasher
And are BPA Free.
I was one of the first clients of Eco Brotbox when they first started in Switzerland. They have been crowd funding a project called “Das Triffin Projekt Schweiz”, which is trying to partner with restaurants in Switzerland where their reusable stainless steel containers are being used as take away packaging. Have you thought about partnering with restaurants and bars to provide your straws as an alternative to the conventional disposable ones?
Yes actually we already work with a few restaurants and hotels. With bars it’s a bit more difficult as they are afraid that the straws get stolen. However, my hope is that it gets so normal to have a glass or metal straw in your cocktail that you don’t think about stealing it anymore.
You offer straws made of three types of materials (glass, bamboo and stainless steel), apart from these materials all being sustainable, why have more than one option? I have heard a valid crisis about paper straws not being very sustainable, is this why you don’t offer paper straws too?
Yes exactly, we are trying to avoid creating waste and using products just a single time, that is why we are not offering paper straws. I like to provide people with options though – I think the glass straws are great for smoothies, because they have a bigger diameter. The metal straws are great for drinks as they lead the temperature. Bamboo straws are super light and therefore great travel buddies.
There is a lot of criticism for products produced in Asia. However according to studies done by the UN in 2014, North East Asia and Asia and the Pacific with 26% and 12% respectively, had the highest combined distribution of single-use plastic product by region. So it makes sense to me that to produce the solution where the issue is at most not only present but also evidently affecting their environment and ecosystem. Since you first came across the impact of plastic waste and at the same time the solution in Asian. Do you feel a responsibility to support Asia by producing your products there?
Yes, I love to support the people there, as I have a strong connection to Asia. I have spent a big part of my last 7 winters backpacking through Asia and since I found suppliers with all the necessary certification, in terms of working laws and sustainability, I’m glad I can produce there.
How would you like to see your straws make an impacting the next 10 years as regulations banning single use plastics in many countries like the U.K. are on the rise?
I hope in ten years nobody will be using single-use plastic straws anymore and « Strawganics » will be the new norm for all drinks and cocktails. ;)
Make sure to check our Strawganic`s reusable straws via the link below.
From now till the end of March to celebrate the Launch of The Unwrapped Family blog and this collaboration, Strawganic is offering 30% off. All you have to do is use the promo code thelaststraw
WUNEP (2018). SINGLE-USE PLASTICS: A Roadmap for Sustainability
Broenstein, S. (2018, April 21). Science Says: Amount of straws, plastic pollution is huge. Retrieved January 25, 2019, from https://phys.org/news/2018-04-science-amount-straws-plastic-pollution.html