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One of the most powerful images used by environmentalists to highlight the devastating damage to the Earth’s oceans by plastic refuse are images of the “Plastic Island,” also known as the “Pacific Garbage Patch,” which now measures somewhere between two and three times the size of France. Single-use plastic straws comprise a substantial portion of the floating garbage patch, and because of their size and shape, are one of the main culprits in harming marine animals.

Coastal communities, whose economies rely on clean oceans for fishing and tourism, are getting serious about combatting plastic pollution.

The governor of my home state of New Jersey recently vetoed legislation which would impose a ten cent tax on plastic grocery bags because it was not restrictive enough, and has encouraged the legislature to send him legislation that includes restrictions upon plastic straws and Styrofoam food containers as well. Oceanside municipalities such as Point Pleasant Beach have moved proactively, ahead of pending legislation, by banning plastic grocery bags altogether.

Beyond the effect on coastal economies, environmentalists are generating a growing awareness among consumers that plastic garbage is killing marine life, affecting the food chain, and if allowed to continue, is the beginning of the end of life outside the oceans. Large companies like Starbucks have resolved to eliminate plastic straws by 2020; however, they are doing so by reconfiguring their cup lids to be a combination lid and straw, but still made of plastic. Small startups like 4Ocean are funding ocean cleanup projects by selling bracelets made from plastic salvaged from the ocean. But removing ocean plastic doesn’t solve the problem if more plastic garbage is going to replace it. Solving the plastic ocean pollution problem has become a focus of green consumers, and it begins one straw at a time, but it’s hard to imagine straws suddenly disappearing from the beverage industry. Enter Loliware, the seaweed based edible straw!

Loliware was first introduced in 2015 by founders Chelsea Briganti and Leigh Ann Tucker, on an episode of “Shark Tank,” a show which enables entrepreneurs to pitch their unique ideas to potential investors. They scored a $600,000 investment in their company, and the company recently launched a successful Indiegogo campaign to further fund their start-up as the creator of the world’s first edible bioplastic.

Loliware straws are colorful, look and feel like plastic, and even add the fruity flavor of gummy bears, or vanilla flavor to your favorite beverage. A flavorless version is also available. They can be eaten after the beverage is finished, or if you prefer not to eat your straws, they can be discarded, whereupon they completely decompose within sixty days, whether they end up in a landfill, a backyard compost heap, or in our waterways. Loliware also features edible cups, which have all the benefits of the straws. Loliware is available for online purchase from Amazon, and other online stores.

Consumers worldwide have woken up to the fact that their food and beverage containers and implements, including straws, are choking the Earth’s oceans to death. They have demonstrated by their support of ocean cleanup projects that they are willing to spend money to help solve this environmental emergency. Different forms of compostable dishes and utensils have hit the market in recent years, but Loliware takes this concept a step further with cups and straws that come in fun colors and enticing flavors! Other companies which sell products that contribute to ocean pollution should rethink their product packaging to make them greener, in order to lessen their environmental impact. Edible packaging and “hyper-compostable” packaging like Loliware, or the Peel Saver eco-conscious packaging for fries that is made from potato peel waste, could be the start of a major new trend in the packaging industry.

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