Smoothie shop owner turns to plant-based straws

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At Extreme Juice Smoothies in Tampa, you’ve got all the standards for making a smoothie -- frozen fruit, ice, juice -- are all blended into your favorite fruity concoction. 

What you won’t see, are plastic straws. Instead, straws there are made out of corn. 

“We make our straws out of polylactic acid, or PLA, which is made from corn starch,” explained Chris Mueller of Turtle Buddy Straws, who owns the smoothie shop.

Mueller started his business after watching a YouTube video of a turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nostril.

“I realized we were going through a quarter of a million straws per year, and I knew if we could make one small change, we could make a big impact,” Mueller said.

He likes to say his plastic straws are like plastic imposters. They perform just like plastic straws and don’t crack or collapse.

“They look and feel just like a normal straw,” he said.

Not only that, they only cost a half a cent more per straw.  That's way cheaper than paper straws, which can cost as much as eight cents apiece.

"Paper straws start to break down in a drink immediately, and they also change the flavor a little bit," he said.

But perhaps the biggest difference is how long they take to decompose.

“It’s estimated that a traditional plastic straw will take 300 to 500 years to break down,” Mueller continued. “And our straws, in a proper composting facility, will break down in three to six months.”

Which, he hopes, could add centuries to the environment's well-being.

Right now, the straws are manufactured in Taiwan and China, but Mueller says he's in the process of purchasing equipment to bring the process to the U.S.