‘There’s no other way to go’: Toronto family launches paper straw business

TORONTO — Armin Azizi likes to go fishing, and it was on one of his recent trips that he realized how polluted our waters are becoming.

“It’s plastic everywhere. All over the city, especially the problem is with one-time-use plastic,” he said. “The plastic straw is too light to be recycled, and it’s ending up as trash in our water system, in our beautiful beaches, ocean and everywhere. So eventually it will come back to and affect our life, our marine life, our children’s lives.”

It was then that Azizi saw a trend, and an opportunity for his family.

“Everything is going more green,” he says. “And with my background in environmental engineering, I thought I can do more with getting involved in making a product that is environmentally friendly and biodegradable.”

In 2018, Azizi opened GSM Inc, or Green Supply Management Inc., selling paper straws made from Canadian and American materials.

“There are tons of paper straws on the market, but they’re coming from China. I’m not saying they are bad, but the problem is that some of them are not FDA approved,” Azizi tells CTV News Toronto.

“They’re putting [the straws] in a plastic bag. So you have 15 paper straws, but in a plastic bag. We try not to use anything regarding our packaging. We use Kraft paper, which also biodegradable, because the whole thing is about having less plastic.”

Azizi’s brother-in-law Hossein Hessami has been helping launch the business, and he says the future of the environment is always top of mind for the company.

“[Armin] understood that planet Earth is going toward a no point of return,” Hessami said. “[He is] sacrificing many things in his life to create this.”

One of those sacrifices for Azizi was leaving a career as a registered nurse to launch GSM Inc. with his wife, Maryam Hessami.

“Suddenly [Armin] came to me one time, he said ‘I want to do this, are you supporting me?’ And I said I am 100 per cent behind you,” she tells CTV News.

Armin Azizi

The couple emigrated from Iran in 1997 and put down roots in Toronto. They have two sons, both young adults.

“We really love Canada, and it always gives us opportunity,” Azizi says, looking around his factory. “Look at it here, something totally new!”

Azizi says his clients are mainly restaurants and small franchises, but he hopes to see the company grow.

“We keeps the jobs here [in Canada],” he says. “And we keep testing our straws to see how we can make them better and better.”

“The most important thing any Canadian can do is help the community by choosing the small, local producers,” Hossein Hessami added. “We have to understand what we are contributing to.”

After a tour of the factory and a demonstration of how the straws are made, the family reminds CTV News Toronto of their main goal – reducing pollution and protecting the environment.

“I can see the day that we don’t have plastic straw, plastic shopping bag, and all these things will be eliminated,” Azizi said. “It’s a matter of time. There’s no other way to go.”

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