An Exeter Township couple is clearing the way for cleaner waterways by bringing eco-friendly paper straws to area consumers and offering a high-quality alternative to single-use plastics.
Hearing frightening statistics stating that the equivalent of a garbage truck load of plastic debris enters the ocean every minute, that marine animals starve after eating plastic that fills their stomachs and that plastics will exceed fish by weight in the ocean by 2050, Petros Pappalas and Shanna Henry were inspired to start World Brand in 2018.
Both Pennsylvania natives, the engaged pair met in 2017 and found common ground in their love of the outdoors and their desire to make a positive impact on the environment.
“I feel very grateful for these experiences and to live in a time where one person with the right information can make lifestyle changes to make a positive impact,” Pappalas, a 2003 Exeter High School graduate, said. “We saw paper straws as having a big need to perform better with the relatively low start-up cost.”
World Brand’s new Coasty Straws were recently stocked in 10 Redner’s Markets locations in Berks County and the outlying region.
“We were contacted through a mutual business partner and took immediate interest,” said Redner’s vice-president of procurement, Dan Eberhart. “We always look to support a local (Berks County) based business, especially one that is new and in a very exciting and emerging category. As more interest is generated within the eco-friendly product market such as plant-based straws, we can only look to boost their sales and get them in front of our guests. The bonus is that this business is homegrown and any time Redner’s can support a business that has a beginning much like us, we will do so.”
Frustrated by the waste she saw in her past retail career, Henry notes her awareness of issues with single-use plastic began to intensify.
She started on a plant-based diet that included green smoothies which she preferred to drink with a straw and realized the only paper straws available were party-themed and flimsy.
“Party straws, even a half a decade ago, were made simply to fulfill small, niche needs, in some cases for restaurants, hotels and private use, but mostly as party accents with minimal attention paid to quality,” Pappalas said. “As a result, most paper straws became soggy, unraveled, and fell apart quickly.”
Not only were the straws a poor quality, he explains, but they were produced in small quantities and the prices were high.
The newly released Coasty Straws are made of sustainably-sourced Kraft paper and biodegradable glue, and meet Pappalas’ and Henry’s commitment to address any complaints consumers have made about past paper straws.
Pappalas said that Coasty Straws are one of the strongest paper straws on the market and outdid the competition in a recently conducted crush test, do not unravel even after 24 hours, and are composed of Food and Drug Administration-approved materials and sustainably harvested paper that is Forest Stewardship Council-certified.
While Coasty Straws are biodegradable and will safely decompose if they do enter waterways, Pappalas said some recycling centers will not allow food-contaminated paper straws to be recycled.
Henry, a 2006 graduate of Oley Valley High School and 2011 graduate of Kutztown University, said, “sometimes we think something is recyclable, like an orange juice carton or a greasy pizza box, when it’s actually not.”
Due to the composition of Coasty Straws, they are safe for backyard composting, unlike traditional or even plant-based plastic straws, which must be composted in a commercial composting facility.
Pappalas hopes both commercial operations and Redner’s shoppers who have already adopted paper straws and are looking for the best quality, as well as people who are skeptical about paper straws, will ease into using Coasty Straws due to their offering of affordable quality and a similar convenience to single-use plastic straws.
“To help individual consumers have a sustainable option that is accessible and at an affordable price point, customers can now purchase a pack of our Coasty straws for home use and to take on-the-go at Redner’s grocery stores,” he said.
Henry believes most people are willing to choose products that promote a healthy impact on the environment, but feels some eco-friendly companies deliver a feeling of exclusivity that creates a divide between people who are identified on opposite sides of helping the planet.
“A common thought is that you have to dress a certain way, shop only at health food stores, and drive a hybrid to show that you care for the environment,” Henry said. “We recognize that living a more sustainable life takes a lot of conscientious habit formation that is ultimately going to be riddled with mistakes and learning.
“Petros and I are not perfect. Sometimes we forget our bags and water bottles. We’re still learning and working on doing our best to lessen our plastic footprint. If everyone just takes small steps, like switching from a plastic straw to a paper straw, together we can all make a sizeable, positive impact for the future generations to come.”
Pappalas and Henry are already working on redesigns and prototypes to replace other single-use plastic products. For more information, go to www.worldbrandco.com.