Oklahoma entrepreneur making plant
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Oklahoma entrepreneur making plant

Jan 09, 2024

It's 100% recyclable, degradable and compostable.

It's 100% recyclable, degradable and compostable.

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It's 100% recyclable, degradable and compostable.

The future of an alternative to plastic could be based in Oklahoma.

A local entrepreneur has designed a sustainable, clean, plant-based alternative to plastic, and her product recently caught Nike's eye.

The idea started a few years ago. It's a straw made of plant-based material. It was a simple idea but catapulted Edmond's Sharina Perry and Utopia Plastix into potentially changing how we forever think of plastic.

We have all been to a restaurant where we order a drink, and they give us a paper straw. After a couple of minutes, the paper straw breaks down.

That's exactly what happened to Perry in 2018 while at a bar in Midtown. So, she began to think.

"We had this shift from plastic straws," Perry said. "Starbucks announcing they are going to do away with plastic straws. Now, we are looking at cutting down trees and paper straws. It didn't make sense."

Perry sat at her kitchen table all night, figuring out how she could use plants as a better alternative. So, she made her first plant-based straw.

"Much to my surprise that day, the straw hardened when I put it in a cold liquid," Perry said. "That is something I have never seen happen with a paper straw."

She then tried it in hot water, and the straw held up as well. It was then Perry knew she might be on to something.

"I had never invented anything. That night it was like, 'What do I do from here?'" Perry said. "Sharina, you can't come up with something and just leave it. So, I did something."

Over the next few months, she began working with manufacturers to nail down a plant-based design.

"I began focusing on using these crops as alternatives to paper and then in plastic application," Perry said.

After more fine-tuning, she realized her product could hold up and replace potentially traditional plastic. The material her company, Utopia Plastix, creates is unlike any plant-based material ever invented.

We did something totally different," Perry said. "And, perhaps, it was because I wasn't an engineer or a chemist. I was literally using plant material and identifying the benefits of the plant material."

It's 100% recyclable, degradable and compostable.

She said it saves energy and uses less waste than regular plastic.

"What's left behind will truly benefit our environment and add those nutrients back in," Perry said. "It's truly sustainable."

And now, Nike wants in on her creation. They have brought her on as a supply partner, meaning anyone making a Nike product can use Perry's material as a sustainable solution.

"They could see a company like Utopia Plastix that is African-American, woman-owned and show interest in us," Perry said.

She also contracts with the government and global manufacturers to create alternative solutions to plastic.

"I can be proud of what I am doing for my kids, my grandson, all the people I love and the future," Perry said.