Shady bootleg reusable straw companies are taking advantage of the backlash against plastic straws

EC: Metal Straws Make Every Drink Taste Better
Credit: Illustration by Maxine Builder

Rallying against plastic straws is likely the biggest environmental cause in the food world for 2018—up there with ending food waste in 2016. But unlike using food scraps, straws need some kind of replacement, at least in cases where you can’t just drink directly from the cup. Enter reusable straws. Business is reportedly booming, but so are sales from shadier companies trying to make a buck off the plastic straw backlash.

According to Money, many reusable straw sellers have had trouble keeping up with all the interest, with some small business owners saying they’ve either had to hire extra staff or simply put up “sold out” notices on their online shops. “It’s just sort of exploded,” Cindy Schiff, founder of GreenPaxx, which sells adjustable silicone straws, told the magazine. “I have people daily emailing me saying that they want my straws, they want my straws … it has been challenging to keep up with everything.”

Etsy had a similar story, telling Money that searches for metal straws on the site are up 205 percent over the past six months compared to the same time last year. Glass straw searches are also up 63 percent. In fact, one Etsy seller said he’s seen straw orders jump more than eightfold.

Another success story from the reusable straw movement is FinalStraw. Launched via a Kickstarter campaign in April, the L.A.-based startup has managed to bring in nearly $1.9 million from over 38,000 backers for a “world’s first” collapsible metal straw that comes in a tiny carrying case perfect for a purse or keychain. But while FinalStraw has been finalizing its patent-pending product for a November delivery, a number of other companies have rushed knockoff versions of FinalStraw to online marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba.

According to BuzzFeed News, FinalStraw cofounders Emma Cohen and Miles Pepper have reported more than 200 listings they deem as knockoffs, with some of these shady companies being so brazen as to use FinalStraw’s text, images, and even name. “They are hard to miss. It’s my face. I am advertising these knockoff straws,” Cohen said, later adding, “It is a whack-a-mole situation… As soon as one is taken down, five more pop up.”

As if having your product ripped off isn’t bad enough, Cohen also points out another problem with the mass influx of these shoddy knockoffs that she says are of a far lesser quality than the real thing: It’s just creating more crap. “The whole purpose was to reduce waste,” she said.