Sustainability

SMU Grads Launch Sustainable Startup to Change Single-Use Item Blueprint

PlantSwitch makes sustainable utensils and straws

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Two Southern Methodist University grads are looking to the future of the planet with the launch of their company PlantSwitch which makes sustainable straws and utensils.

When SMU graduates Dillon Baxter and Maxime Blandin met on the university's golf team, they knew they'd start a business together.

"You were always coming to me with ideas," Baxter said to Blandin. "So kinda always had in the back of my mind, he's gonna come up with an idea that we should probably pursue together."

Baxter grew up in the Texas Hill Country. Blandin grew up on the French-speaking Caribbean island of Martinique. Worlds apart, but the friends noticed the same problems.

"I had seen first-hand a lot of the problems with waste through the rivers in New Braunfels," Baxter said. "As a kid, we used to see plastic in water all over the place on every single beach," Blandin said.

Their business plan was hatched at the bottom of a drink.

"Basically, I was sipping on a drink one day and I had a paper straw," Blandin said. "I told myself, you know why has no one come up with a better alternative?"

The pair researched the problem and alternative solutions and then launched PlantSwitch in February 2020. The company makes sustainable single-use straws and utensils using a fibrous byproduct from the process of making tequila.

"By pulling it out of the agave plant, you're able to create something that functions similar to what you're expecting from a traditional plastic product," Baxter said.

There's an important distinction between plastic and PlantSwitch straws.

"You can put them in the trash, throw them in the landfill, and it's going to break down," Blandin said.

Every year, about 8-million tons of plastic waste end up in the oceans and pollute shorelines.

"It's obviously a massive problem, not only environmentally, but also economically," Baxter said. "The blame, for too long, has been placed on the consumer...it really starts at the beginning of the supply chain. You need to be responsible; from the raw materials that you source, all the way to the end product that you create."

PlantSwitch straws are used in dozens of DFW restaurants and bars. The company has plans to expand its inventory to include other single-use items.

"We're trying to make sustainability synonymous with quality," Baxter said. "Our generation has got to do something about it," Blandin said.