WOODLAND PARK, Colo. — As Colorado continues to phase out single-use plastic, some businesses are already on top of the trend. Governor Jared Polis signed a new state law in 2021 calling for restaurants and retailers across Colorado to stop using plastic and polystyrene carryout containers by the start of 2024.
One start-up business out of Woodland Park is stirring up a better way to help the environment and offering a solution to businesses and retailers.
“They can put down the paper straw but still not feel guilty. We make sugarcane biodegradable straws that we use through repurposing sugar bagasse,” said Connor Santana, co-founder of Pract-Eco Solutions.
Nex Sip! Sugarcane Straws are offering a sweet solution to phasing out single-use plastic with their sugarcane straws.
“I wanted to come up with a different solution that helped solve that problem of reducing plastic but also was a more practical, durable solution,” said Santana.
Veteran Connor Santana and his wife Bella started Pract-Eco Solutions in 2021 to bring a practical and affordable straw to the market. Within six months, they’ve expanded into nearly two dozen restaurants, multiple distributors and a growing number of retail spaces.
Part of the ideas for Nex Sip! stirred up from Bella’s background growing up in Thailand.
“I grew up seeing sugarcane fields all the time, because that’s where they grow is in Thailand–a lot of the sugarcane fields,” said Bella Santana, co-founder of Pract-Eco Solutions. “We will often see them burn and when they burn, you see ash everywhere. It’s not even tied in together until you grow up and start to see, actually this is very bad for our environment.”
The U.S. produced over 35 million tons of sugarcane in 2020, burning sugarcane during and after the harvest as part of the process.
“After the sugar is washed through and processed, what you’re left with is a very fibrous bio-waste material called bagasse. Farmer don’t really have much other choice but to burn it. So you see towns covered in ash, and we’re trying to provide farmers another option, really,” said Santana.
Pract-Eco Solutions gets their raw materials directly from sugar farmers, reusing what they can’t.
“We’re able to make our straws at a very affordable rate, because for restaurants to adopt something like this, it needs to make sense economically for them. Again, it repurposes bio-waste, but it still holds together,” said Santana.
The re-purposing of Sugarcane bagasse provides an alternative to plastic disposable products while playing a role in the repurposing of bio-waste.
Border Burger Bar, with locations in Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs, has been using Nex Sip! straws since the start.
“I like them. They can stay in your drink two or three weeks and don’t fall apart. And they’re gonna be gone in three months. And they’re resourcing a bad product of the sugarcane, so for us it’s a win-win,” said Richard Good, owner of Border Burger Bar. “Most people are overjoyed we’re using biodegradable, and these straws don’t fall apart like paper ones.”
They have regular size straws, Sip-N-Stir cocktail straws and recently rolled out their Boba straws. You can buy Nex Sip! Sugarcane Straws here.
“You can be successful and make a difference in the environment and contribute what you can,” said Bella Santana.
“Everybody should do a little bit of what you can. What’s the cost for saving the planet?” said Good.