Meet the Business #39 : The Other Straw

Plastic straws are no longer an option in your lives. They take thousands of years to break down and as a not recycled product, they pollute oceans and cause an immense impact on our environment.

The good news is the use of plastic straws is banned in several countries and many companies around the world are providing more sustainable alternatives to the product.

theotherstraw is one great example of how it’s possible to imagine a planet without plastic.

The business founded by Jamie-Lee Kay and his other half Lennart offers an effective alternative to eliminate plastic straws by encouraging the use of sustainable, reusable bamboo straws.

Why bamboo? To start with, it’s one of the most sustainable options to beat the use of plastic. and it’s one of the fastest-growing plants in the world. Let’s find out more about bamboo products and the other straw use of it in this interview.

 Midlands Traveller: Tell me a little bit about your background in business.

Jamie-Lee Kay:  My background is in International Development. I have been working in the not-for-profit sector for over five years and on a variety of different projects with multiple organisations ranging from women’s empowerment and gender equality to children’s rights, literacy, and education.

I have always been very passionate about sustainability and purpose-driven work with a social impact. This has led me to found theotherstraw with my partner Lennart.

We launched theotherstraw just after I graduated from University. We poured our personal savings into starting the business, which was a bit daunting. But we are so passionate about our cause and impact, so we knew it was the right thing to do.

Bamboo cutlery pack 01

MT: How did you come up with the idea for your business?

JK: Plastic straws take hundreds, sometimes thousands of years to actually break down and every single plastic straw ever used still exists today. They are unrecyclable and do not biodegrade leading to long-term pollution environmental impacts.

Realising these realities, Lennart, my partner, and I founded theotherstraw.  We’re really lucky to live by the beach in Australia and we’ve seen firsthand the damaging impacts plastic straws have on our natural environments and wildlife.

We’re both passionate about sustainability and the environment, which led us to start theotherstraw – to help make the world a more sustainable place.

theotherstraw is a social enterprise replacing single-use plastic straws with reusable, compostable, sustainable, ethically sourced bamboo straws.

 MT: Tell me about The Other Straw’s mission.

 JK: Our mission is to make the world a more sustainable place. We do this by offering reusable bamboo straws in replacement of single-use plastic straws.

theotherstraw serves as a symbol of everything people can do in their everyday life to live a less wasteful lifestyle.

Yes, it’s only a straw, but it resembles so much more! By encouraging both businesses and individuals to swap to a reusable straw, we hope that encourages and empowers them to embrace other sustainable swaps in their lives.

 MT: What is unique about The Other Straw and what services do you provide?

JK: We like to think of theotherstraw as a brand and not just a manufacturer of bamboo straws. We differentiate ourselves by our brand values and ethos which align with our customers and our community.

We donate 50% of our profits back to ocean cleanups and ethically source our straws in Northern Vietnam. In everything we do, we embrace sustainability.

We only ship carbon-neutral, have a zero plastic policy and use zero-waste packaging and delivery. These things are really important to our customers and help which differentiates us.

We have just extended our range to sell other reusable, sustainable alternatives to plastic. This includes our bamboo cutlery pack and coconut bowls.

We also sell our bamboo straws wholesale. As businesses are the biggest contributors to plastic straws, they are our main focus. We have worked with many hotels, restaurants, cafes, and bars around the world. We also offer customised straws for weddings, events, and festivals.

 MT: Why did you choose bamboo products?

JK: Bamboo is one of the most sustainable plants on Earth and is one of the fastest-growing plants.

We chose bamboo because we wanted to support a circular and zero-waste economy, where no waste was left behind.

We believe waste is a design flaw, and there are many natural, sustainable materials, like bamboo available that we should be embracing more in our everyday life.

Bamboo is grown organically, without the use of any pesticides or chemicals, it is naturally antibacterial, compostable, and releases up to 35% more oxygen than trees.

theotherstraw-bamboo-cutlery-pack-product2 (1)

MT: What are the biggest challenges of a business like yours?

JK: We’re a tiny social enterprise and we’re trying to compete with large, established companies who have much larger marketing budgets and distribution channels. This can sometimes be daunting and challenging.

But, we’re so fortunate for our customers who pick us over our competitors as we’re a brand that prioritises our planet and people over profits.

 MT: How can The Other Straw help the community to join a more sustainable lifestyle?

JK: We’re all about educating both businesses and individuals to live a more sustainable lifestyle. We run a variety of markets, and workshops and through our content marketing, we aim to educate and inform businesses and individuals about their plastic footprint, and ways they can live more consciously and sustainably.

 MT: How are social media important to the success of your business?

JK: Social media has been huge in driving brand awareness and organic growth for theotherstraw. A few months before launching, we created an Instagram page where we built up an engaged and like-minded community.

Once we launched, we had a community of individuals and businesses in front of us who trusted our brand. They have been our most loyal customers and engaged followers.

 MT: What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting a project like yours?

JK: Be true to yourself! We’ve seen many businesses fail, and predominantly this is because they start their business with the wrong motivations or intentions. It’s important to be true to yourself and know exactly why you are starting your business, as this will keep you going on those tough days.

MT: What does The Other Straw achieve so far?

JK: Since launching in 2018, we’ve sold over 65,000 reusable bamboo straws and prevented over 6.5 million single-use plastic straws from entering our landfills, natural environments, and oceans.

We’ve also educated over 11,500 individuals and businesses on the impacts of single-use plastic straws and their plastic footprint.

Besides, we have supported over 45 ocean cleanups and provided 50 fair and sustainable jobs to the Hmong Ethnic Minority Group in Northern Vietnam.

 MT: What are the next steps for The Other Straw?   

JK: To further our impact, we will be adding new products to our Eco Essential Range. These products will further support our mission of making the world a more sustainable place and help encourage and empower individuals and businesses to live more sustainably.

The Other Straw on Social Media

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Simone Ribeiro
Hi! I'm Simone, a citizen of Britain, where I live for over a decade, and of Brazil, where I was born. Midlands Traveller is where I combine my passion for travelling, business and an Eco-friendly lifestyle.