Surge in demand for paper, glass straws a boon for plastic alternatives firms

Starbucks, Ikea, A&W, Recipe Unlimited Corp. have announced they would phase out plastic straws

Phillip Jacobsen started selling compostable cutlery in 2011 and about six months later expanded Greenmunch’s product line to include paper straws.

Colourful patterned paper straws were a fad at the time, he said, and party supply stores mostly stocked his product.

A few years ago, demand from restaurants, hotels, bars and others in the food service industry began to dwarf that of retail stores as public pressure on companies and governments to ban plastic straws increased.

Jacobsen is one of several Canadians who worked to fill a gap in the market years ago and now stands to capitalize on the growing trend to ditch plastic straws that get tossed after one use.

Starbucks, Ikea, A&W, Recipe Unlimited Corp. and others have announced they would phase out plastic straws from their restaurants over the next several years. Some cities have already banned the product, while others are considering similar proposals, often citing environmental concerns.

“I think pretty much everybody that’s offering paper straws are running into supply issues,” said Jacobsen, owner of Sherwood Park, Alta.-based Greenmunch.

He’s turned away multiple distributors seeking to stock his straws, which come with stripe, polka dot and star patterns. They cost $15 for a package of 200 and nearly $600 for a bulk order of 9,600.

“(I) probably could have sold like a few million dollars more worth of straws in the last month if we had stock.”

Jacobsen believed he had ordered enough straws to supply his clients for the summer, but in the past three months he’s seen demand explode.

It’s a pattern Aimee Promislow is also seeing at her glass straw business, GlassSipper.

The artist and her husband started the company in Vancouver nearly five years ago after growing frustrated by the waste created when her son would only drink through a straw.

Her borosilicate glass straws feature colourful critter decorations, like geckos, flamingos and owls, and start at $16 — though her plain glass straws cost about half that.

When she brought a batch to her first craft show to sell them, people didn’t quite get the concept, she said.

Undeterred, Promislow continued attending craft shows and selling through an Etsy shop, eventually adding a website with an online shop.

She now sells thousands of glass sippers a year between craft shows, online and through dozens of retailers across Canada and also noticed a big increase since April.

“It’s become more and more mainstream,” she said. “So at first it was really the outliers … now everybody wants glass straws.”

Other plastic alternatives manufacturers are watching the shift and contemplating expanding their offerings to include non-plastic straws.

Vancouver-based Good Natured makes more than 100 plant-based products, including food packaging containers made with 99 per cent plant-based materials.

It does not currently sell straws and CEO Paul Antoniadis said in a statement that as a publicly traded company it can’t share future product launch plans.

“I can share that our customers continue to ask for more options for convenience food packaging, and in turn I anticipate our product assortment will continue to expand to meet those needs.”

Despite the recent surge in demand, Jacobsen’s not ordering too much extra supply from the factory that makes his product.

For one, restaurants shifting from plastic straws to paper ones won’t replace them one for one, he said, but rather are likely to stop serving straws with drinks and offer the alternative ones when a customer asks for one.

He also realizes his company is no longer part of a niche market and faces more competition.

“We’re being cautious.”

Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Coldstream supports Okanagan College Campus residence project

Project would see a 100-bed residence on the Vernon campus in Coldstream

Dog control ramping up on Okanagan Rail Trail

RDNO taking extra precautions to ensure dogs remain on leash

Vernon show supports youth mental health, suicide prevention

Robb Nash will be performing Oct. 2 and 3 at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre

Vernon preps for cannabis legalization

Vernon council tweaking zoning bylaws for non-medical cannabis uses, and cannabis cultivation

Vernon athletes boost WolfPack

Canada West sports roundup

VIDEO: Rare close encounter with whale pod spotted off B.C. waters

Pod of southern resident orca whales breach within arms length of whale watchers

Rattie scores 3 as Oilers blank Canucks 6-0

Vancouver slips to 1-5 in exhibition play

Veterans Affairs ordered to take second look before supporting vets’ relatives

Liberal government ordered officials to adopt a more critical eye

Dead B.C. motorcyclist was member of group that raced down mountain road

Some group members record their rides on Strathcona Parkway and post times to page

Indigenous athletes in spotlight at BC Sports Hall of Fame

New gallery to feature Carey Price, Kaila Mussel and Richard Peter

Vernon Emergency program and Salvation Army team up

Vernon Emergency teams have extended appreciation to the Salvation Army of Vernon… Continue reading

Okanagan College student population climbs

Enrolment up nearly 14 per cent

B.C. couple who went missing on flight from Edmonton named by family

Family released a statement Wednesday saying they’re still intent on finding the two-seater plane

Headbones Gallery welcomes work of Glenn Clarke

Giddieeyup on display Oct. 5 to Nov. 24

Most Read