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SMU grads launch innovative Dallas startup to battle plastic straws

SMU grads launch innovative Dallas startup to battle plastic straws

RD Speakeasy cocktail
Thumbs down to plastic straws. RD Speakeasy

Diners are pelting the planet with plastic refuse every day, but an enterprising Dallas startup has come to the rescue with an exciting new line of straws and cutlery that represents an eco-friendly alternative.

Called Plantswitch, the company was founded in January by two young SMU grads who wanted to create the best enviro-friendly alternative to plastic straws.

Their products are made from recycled agave plants, left over from the production of tequila. They're certified by multiple international organizations (ASTM 5511 & ISO 15985) to degrade in both aerobic and anaerobic landfill environments — meaning you can throw them out with your regular waste, unlike some other "compostable" alternatives that require special circumstances to decompose.

They state that it takes up to 240 days for their products to degrade, whether they're in landfills or compost sites.

Cofounders Dillon Baxter and Maxime Blandin are both environmentally conscious, but hated paper straws and felt there were obstacles with other alternatives such as metal, bamboo, and PLA (short for Polylactic Acid, a compostable alternative made from corn starch or sugar).

PlantSwitch uses a patent-pending blend of agave fiber, bagasse, coconut oil, agave-based bioplastic compounds, and organic, degradation-enhancing additives and pigments.

Baxter says their products have the same functionality as plastic, but are still biodegradable in landfills because the agave fibers create enough space in the polymer chain for humidity and bacteria to enter in and break down the product naturally in 240 days. #science

"Our mission is to replace all single-use plastic items in the foodservice industry with biodegradable products that consumers love," Baxter says.

They're working with a third partner based in Mexico, who oversees the manufacturing operation.

Baxter says their products are more durable and higher quality than paper, bamboo, PLA, and are priced competitively with other alternatives, although they're still not cheaper than plastic.

"It's more expensive than plastic, and the reality is that some people will choose the cheaper option," he says. "But we have signed a few notable clients, including all of Shannon Wynne's restaurants such as Flying Fish, Flying Saucer, and Rodeo Goat; Dallas restaurants Drake's and Hudson House; Discovery Land Company, which owns and operates the most elite golf and hotel resorts across the country."

They started with straws, then utensils, and will continue to expand their product line with to-go containers, cups, and water bottles.

"Forbes has done surveys where they've found that consumers will be more loyal to a company that supports social or environmental issues," Baxter says. "And 62 percent of consumers say they are more likely to buy from food and beverage companies that claim to be sustainable."

"There are 12 million tons of plastic waste deposited in our oceans every year, and America alone uses 500 million straws every day," he says. "Why wouldn't you go eco-friendly?"