Each year, the planet produces three hundred million tons of plastic. Half of that will only be used once and then thrown away. Miami-based Lean Orb produces eco-packaging, an environmentally responsible way of serving food on-the-go.
“Think about it, it’s the product we use usually for less than ten minutes that are not renewable, that will pollute our ecosystem, our soil, our groundwater, our oceans for the next five hundred years,” said Anastasia Mikhalochkina, Lean Orb’s Founder and CEO.
It’s not just about air pollution. It’s also about climate change. Most plastic is made from fossil fuel, a major cause of global warming, which leads to sea level rise.
“We are designing and building alternatives to single use plastics,” Mikhalochkina said. “We created alternatives for takeout clamshells, cups, straws, plates, cutlery.”
Most of Lean Orb’s material comes from natural fibers like wheat straw, sugarcane, bamboo, banana leaf and birch wood. They say its products are industrial compostable and usually disintegrate under 90 days.
Last year, the company began working with Miami Beach restaurant and juice bar, Under The Mango Tree, which now uses its straws and utensils.
“It has been one of our biggest goals to help the environment, but educate people also,” Under The Mango Tree Owner Patricia Olesen said.
The restaurant sells mason jars for two dollars that can be reused, over and over. Customers can bring in the jar and get a discount on a smoothie. They also encourage people to eat in instead of wasting to-go containers. And their bowls are made from renewable by-products of wheat straw.
“We feel very comfortable with giving people the bowls, to send out, to go walk around and then they could throw it out and we know that in a few weeks it will be completely biodegradable,” Olesen said.
When it comes to the future of plastic, the power to make change lies in the hands of our youngest citizens. Monica Matteo-Salinas is the PTA Advocacy Chair at South Pointe Elementary, where two of her children attend.
“We’re about five blocks from the beach and many of our kids spend their weekends playing, swimming, snorkeling, doing everything on the beach and in the sand,” she said. “So they’re very aware that plastics, trash, plastic bags, straws end up in our waterways, in our beaches, in our drainage system, and damage wildlife.”
Last year, Lean Orb teamed up with South Pointe Elementary to begin a partnership for education and change. They provide the school with paper straws and wooden cutlery that is compostable and they educate the younger generation on things they can do today and the difference they can make by not only using those products, but inspiring their parents to do the same.
“My kids absolutely talk about this at home. They are, again, very environmentally aware” Matteo-Salinas said. “They do not like to use plastic straws. They will decline them at restaurants. They really don’t want anything to do with plastic bottles. They both have their reusable waters they they fill up on their own, independently.”
This school year, reusable utensils will be available at every elementary school in Miami Beach and plastic straws will no longer be available in the Miami-Dade County Public School System.