For Kirt McGhee, it all started on a 2019 fishing trip in Costa Rica and a series of mushy paper straws that fell apart. But the experience got Kirt imagining hemp-based straws that were eco-friendly and durable. At the time, hemp legalization was open in Texas, and Kirt started a market opportunity in industrial hemp. From there, Pura Vida Bioplastics was born, which today produces a 100% bio-based, fossil fuel-free plastic alternative that is fully compostable for home and industrial use—a true green product making a real difference in the fight against plastic waste accumulation.
Kirt comes from an entrepreneurial, finance, and real estate background, having founded a mortgage bank that provided fantastic investment opportunities for their clients. After the mortgage crisis, Kirt pivoted into construction, launching a company in Houston and building custom homes. All while keeping this company operable, Kirt delved deeper into the possibilities of plastic alternatives. He met with his first prospective manufacturer in November 2019 who promised a minimum of 10 billion polylactic acid (PLA) straws per year that supposedly came from hemp. But unfortunately, that wasn’t the truth, and it was Kirt’s first encounter with “greenwashing,” a façade of eco-friendly practices masking a far less green reality. “I was essentially ripped off by their false branding,” he remembers. “I thought it would be what they promoted it to be. I felt defeated.” But Kirt was not about to concede his values of environmental responsibility. The next potential partner promised home compostable straws, but it turned out that to compost them, they would need to be treated in an industrial facility—not the home composting solution Kirt wanted for his consumers.
Thanks to his perseverance, Kirt finally found the right partner in Kaneka Biopolymers, a Japan-based company that truly offered 100% bio-based resin. He began production in August 2021, and by November, they were shipping samples to people. By January, the product took off and secured Pura Vida as the only 100% bio-based straw manufacturer in the world, producing millions of straws per month and distributed by major companies in the U.S. Right now, their focus is straws, but Kirt hopes to expand into other disposable plastic items, including containers, applicators, bags, and more. They also work to educate consumers on the importance of reducing plastic consumption and how bioplastics are a viable alternative. “We stand behind what we sell with integrity,” Kirt says. “We’re doing the right thing and making sure to do the right thing every step of the way.” That also includes promoting diversity and getting other minority-owned companies, like ours, into bio-based products so that they can help make a difference, too.
The success has been phenomenal, but for Kirt, it’s deeper than that. “When this opportunity came in 2019, I was blown away. It’ll be the largest thing I’ve done to date in my life,” Kirt says. “The best thing is getting away from chasing the almighty dollar, and actually doing the right thing and making a difference. It’s a great feeling to put my head down at night knowing I’m doing the right thing.”
CEO & Managing Member — Pura Vida Bioplastics
LinkedIn: Kirt McGhee; PuravidaBioPlastics
Facebook: Puravida BioPlastics
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