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Single-Use Plastic Backlash a Boon for Alternative Straw Businesses

alternative straw
(Photo Credit: Aardvark Straws)

Consumer pressure on corporations to phase out single-use plastic straws has produced increased demand for reusable or compostable products. Businesses that make an alternative straw out of paper, silicone, glass, and metal report being inundated with orders.

The drumbeat of corporations announcing plans to ditch plastic straws and stirrers hasn’t slowed. Marriott International, Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Hilton all made commitments this year. In recent months, Disney, Red Lobster, Live Nation, and Delta joined in. Collins Dictionary recently named “single-use” their word of the year.

Fort Wayne, Indiana-based Aardvark Straws makes paper straws that the company describes as marine-friendly, naturally degradable, FDA/EU compliant, and compostable. Although the company has been around since 2007, they grew 5,000% last year, Indianapolis Star’s Sarah Bowman reported. In August disposable paper tableware-maker Hoffmaster Group acquired the company, and this month announced construction on a new 100,000-square-foot facility slated to open in February.

The new state-of-the-art facility in Fort Wayne will replace Aardvark’s current plant, increasing capacity to 700% by the end of next year, according to the company. “We get new customer requests every single day,” said Andy Romjue, president of Hoffmaster’s Foodservice Division.

Other alternative straw makers have seen unprecedented demand as well. “We’ve sold out continuously,” Rita DiOrio, co-founder of the New Jersey-based silicone straw company Koffie Straw, told Money journalist Julia Glum. Over the summer she expanded into four new countries and three dozen new stores.

Ryan Lysaght owns Elegancy Jewelers in southern Maryland, which sells personalized stainless steel curved drinking straws on Etsy. He told Glum that he’s seen a huge spike in sales in 2018, with orders jumping 743% compared to the same period in 2017.

During the first half of 2018, Etsy searches for metal straws were up 205% compared to the same time period as last year, Glum reported. Inquiries for “glass straws” on the maker site were also higher. Competition for a piece of the alternative straw market is fierce, though. In November, a search on Amazon for “reusable straws” pulled up more than 10,000 results.

Despite the rush for businesses, organizations, municipalities, and regions to ban plastic straws, advocacy groups for people with disabilities have requested policy clarifications. CNBC reported that there will be exceptions to the UK government’s current proposal banning the distribution and sale of plastic straws and stirrers. Pharmacies and medical centers can continue to sell them for medical reasons while eateries can offer them upon request to customers.

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