A company in the Cowichan Valley has developed its own alternative to the use of plastic straws.
The family-run business, Enviro Glass Straw Ltd. which operates from a studio on Cobble Hill Road, began in 2012 and was the first Canadian manufacturer of glass drinking straws.
Professional glass blower Tyler Hayes and his wife Leah run the business, which employs as many as seven people at busy times during the year.
Enviro Glass Straw has grown over the years and the company now sells more than 60,000 glass straws a year across North America and the Caribbean, with eyes on the growing markets overseas.
“We’ve always taught our kids, Morgan and Autumn, to be environmentally sensitive and when Autumn was three years old, she asked me to make her a glass straw so she wouldn’t have to use disposable plastic ones,” said Tyler, who also operates Mystic Glass Creations with business partner Kim Reid.
“Then family and friends began asking me to make them glass straws and we began to realize that there might be something here to build a business on. I did some research and saw that there were no other companies in Canada making glass straws at the time, and only two in the U.S.”
A recent study estimated that as many as 8.3 billion plastic straws pollute the world’s beaches, with tonnes more added each year, and communities and companies across the globe have begun banning or curtailing their use.
The City of Vancouver voted to totally ban the distribution of plastic straws as of June 1, 2019, as part of its Zero Waste 2040 strategy.
The City of Duncan is the first community in the Cowichan Valley to consider curtailing the use of plastic straws, but council decided at a meeting earlier this month that it doesn’t want an outright ban on them until more information is considered.
A staff report cautioned against banning plastic straws until alternatives are agreed upon because of the many disabled people that rely on them for eating and/or drinking.
The use of paper and metal straws are often considered as an alternative to plastic, but studies have found both are not useful for consuming hot liquids as many of the paper ones tend to disintegrate and the metal ones get too hot for the user.
Tyler said his glass straws are the perfect solution to these, and other issues.
He said he creates his straws in his studio using only borosilicate glass, the strongest commercially available glass on the market, from the Czech Republic.
“The straws won’t disintegrate and they are strong enough that people can’t bite through them,” Tyler said.
“The glass also doesn’t heat up with hot liquids in the same way as metal straws and the heat doesn’t conduct up all the way to the top. As well, there is no leaching from glass, like there is with metal, and some people have allergies to metal.”
Tyler said bamboo straws are also seen as an alternative to plastic ones, but they typically disintegrate after only a few uses.
Leah, who helps run the marketing end of the business, said that with the increasing focus on environmental issues around the world, more companies are now getting in on the action and selling glass straws.
But she said most are imported from China and only one other Vancouver-based company currently makes their straws in Canada.
“Our straws are also better quality and we offer five-year warranties on them,” Leah said.
“The market for our straws keeps growing and it’s keeping us busy.”
For more information on Enviro Glass Straw, click here.