Reusable straws have become a central focus in helping to preserve the environmentso much so that banning plastic straws was an issue on the Chicago ballots during the recent midterm elections.
To that end, former Chicago Bear Ryan Mundy and business partner Philip Causgrove have founded SWZLE, a company specializing in mostly stainless steel straws that are BPA ( bisphenol A )-free and dishwasher-safe. Moreover, the straws come in three different shapes ( bent, cocktail and straight ) and seven unique colors ( silver, gold, rose gold, black, blue, purple, rainbow metallic ).
Windy City Times: How did you two become business partners?
Ryan Mundy: A mutual friend connected us well over a year ago now. We're both members of Soho House and that friend is also a member. Phil and I then started emailing each other and having coffeeand that's the genesis of how we met.
WCT: Five years ago, people didn't really think about reusable straws. Do you have any stats to show how much of an impact plastic straws have had on us and the environment?
Philip Causgrove: One that gets thrown around quite a bit is that 500 million plastic straws are used in the U.S. daily. And you may think, "There aren't even 500 million people in the U.S.," but there are those straws that come with refills. And every time a bartender makes a cocktail, they may use a straw to taste and then throw it away. That's an incredible number; it averages out to about 550 straws per person per year.
Since plastic has been ingrained in our daily lives, in the '50s, only 9 percent of it has disappeared in some way, shape or form. So basically all of the plastic that has ever been created is still in existenceand there's no great way to break it down.
WCT: Wow. Tell me about how people can customize their SWZLE orders.
PC: Yeah; there are three shapes and several different colors, and we definitely have some more shapes and diameters coming down the pipeline. They're BPA-safe, dishwasher-safe and even come with their own carrying cases.
WCT: There are all sorts of reusable straws out thereincluding a rose-quartz crystal straw on the website goop that retails for $68. [SWZLE's items are $9.99-$19.99, incidentally.] What distinguishes your straws from the others out there?
PC: I think the customization sets us apart. But also, you can grab a nice coffee on your way to work, for example, and clean it out. [The straws come with cleaners.] We also wanted to make our straws a little eye-catching.
WCT: There's still a Kickstarter campaign?
RM: We completed our Kickstarter in mid-September. It ran for three weeks and we more than exceeded our goal. I think we reached 180 percent of our goal. It was about the eco-friendliness of the straws, and making a difference on an individual level. Kickstarter was a great springboard for our product.
WCT: So SWZLE straws are ready to ship?
PC: Items will be ready to ship in mid-December, but we are taking pre-orders right now. The Kickstarter campaign was great for awareness and brand recognition. Looking forward to spring, I think we're considering a wholesale strategy for select retailers.
WCT: By the way, who came up with the name?
PC: Oh, I did. I was playing around with swizzle stick and stirring. By the way, something a lot of people don't know is that we also have biodegradable paper straws. We look forward to working with the hospitality industry, restaurants and bartenders. We even talked with the Bears about the possibility of Soldier Field switching to them.
RM: Yeahwe're really excited to work with the restaurant and hospitality industries because, as Phil said, a lot of plastic straws are in those places. Places like Starbucks, United and Hyatt, for example, have said they're looking to ban plastic straws.
WCT: My final question: What are your predictions for the Bears' final regular-season record?
RM: [Laughs] I know they have some divisional games coming up, but those teams aren't doing too well. I'm going to say they'll finish 10-6.
PC: In the interest of full transparency, I'm not a Bears fan. But I don't want to offend anyone, so I'm going to say 11-5.
See www.SWZLE.com . Also, follow the company @SWZLE ( Instagram ) and @SWZLEStraws ( Twitter ) as well as on Facebook.