A new local business hopes to eliminate the need for plastic straws with a reusable and stylish alternative.
After two years and 20 prototypes, inventor Arix Zalace said he has designed a straw substitute that will last a lifetime. With the help of a grant and some additional crowd funding, Zalace founded Lastra — a company that he hopes will be manufacturing reusable straws by the end of the year.
“It was really about changing the relationship that people have with straws,” said the Walton County resident.
His idea started about 10 years ago, when Jenifer Kuntz, his fiancée, opened Raw & Juicy, a juice bar in Seaside that offered paper straws. Some years later, the pair saw a YouTube video of a distressed sea turtle with a straw stuck in its nose.
“For both Jen and I, (that video) was a huge changing point in turns of we kind of hit a point were we were like, you know, we don’t really care if customers complain anymore, there’s got to be a change,” said Zalace, who also owns Turtle Safe Products, a local conservation company.
From there, Kuntz. who now oversees Lastra's production and networking, came up with the idea of creating a stainless straw alternative — one that was reusable, held its shape and made a statement against traditional plastics.
Their finished product is a discreet case with three different-sized straws made either of solid stainless steel or coated with titanium. A cleaning device that resembles a pipe cleaner is also included. The cost should be around $20.
Zalace said that plastic straws are among the most common plastic wastes found in the ocean, and unfortunately, often mistaken by sea animals for food. Sea grass, which is main source of nutrients for sea turtles and manatees, flows with the ocean's currents almost identically to a straw, drawing animals to them.
"We have to protect these beaches, we have to use the right lighting, we have to take our stuff off and on the beach," Kuntz said. "Don't leave your garbage out there, don't bring plastic, bring your reusable containers.
"I just think that Walton County is an amazing place to have this conversation because we all depend on these waters."
Lastra currently has a crowd-sourcing campaign going on the Indiegogo website that runs through Oct. 10. Zalace has set a goal of raising $75,000 through the campaign.