At 77 years old, Ted Massinello is trekking up and down the Keys with steel straws and a “save the environment one sip at a time” slogan.
Massinello, better known as ‘The Steel Strawman,” says he doesn’t need to be out and about pitching steel straws to businesses and restaurants currently using plastic. A Plantation resident of 50 years, he’s a former physical education teacher and high school baseball and football coach. He entered the business world in the 1970s having run a Hawaiian coffee citrus operation, and now, he’s found a niche market selling stainless steel straws and other steel personalized-engraved products.
“Some people say it’s just a straw. Well, how about 8 billon a day in the world and 250 million a day in the U.S.,” he said. “What I’m trying to do is be the best purveyor of stainless steel to eliminate plastic as much as I can.”
Born in 1942, Massinello said it was his generation that saw the rapid expansion of plastic, not knowing what the ramifications would be in terms of the problems associated with disposal.
Per the Science History Institute, the first synthetic polymer was invented in 1869 by John Wesley Hyatt, who was inspired by a New York firm’s offer of $10,000 for anyone who could provide a substitute for ivory. At the time, the development was seen not only as beneficial to people, but also to the environment and wildlife, including the tortoise and elephant. World War II brought larger expansion of the plastic industry in the U.S. with need to preserve scarce resources. And plastic provided that substitute. During World War II, plastic production in the United States increased by 300%.
Surges in plastic proceeded even after the war ended as Americans were ready to spend again following the Great Depression and World War II. Much of what they bought was plastic. In postwar years, however, perceptions over plastic shifted and were no longer seen as a positive. Plastic debris in oceans was observed in the 1960s as Americans became increasingly aware of environmental issues.
“It’s getting into the water and turtles are eating it. Whales have died from plastic consumption. And it’s not just straws. It’s a whole variety of plastics,” Massinello said.
Researching plastics, and specifically straws, Massinello found that Clearwater, Deerfield, Delray and Miami Beach have implemented bans. In Key West, single-use plastics were recently outlawed.
Massinello says he’s proud to be doing his part in saving the environment and its pollution crisis by offering businesses and events like weddings a better alternative with a little bit of customization.
“I did a wedding down here where they gave out straws as gifts,” he said. “The reception I’ve received since starting this has been extremely positive. Down here, young people care about this. I’ve found a market that’s interested in reducing plastic.”
From a black-and-blue bendable to collapsible kits, The Steel Strawman offers a variety of styles and colors. More information is at thesteelstrawman.com.