Tired of constantly replacing pine straw? Columbia businessman says he has a solution
Four years ago, a friend doing landscape work at Chip Prezioso’s Rosewood Drive business filled plant beds with artificial pine straw.
Today, the pine straw at The South Carolina Shop looks good as new, he said.
“That’s the greatest thing since sliced bread,” Prezioso said.
Continuing to marvel at the pine straw’s durability, including its resistance to fading from the sun, Prezioso researched the product, which to date has mostly commercial applications.
When he couldn’t easily find the product, Prezioso decided to chase down the pine straw’s manufacturer, Textraw Inc., located in Thomasville, Ga. For two years, Prezioso said, he “beat on” on the manufacturer, David Carvin, about becoming a distributor for the product.
Five weeks ago, Carvin called. Shortly thereafter, Strawman FAUXPinestraw, a limited liability company, was born. Like a good story that lasts, synthetic pine straw “has legs,” Prezioso contends.
“This product does not rot. It doesn’t fade. It doesn’t attract insects, and it lasts for about five years,” Prezioso said. “With normal pine straw, you put it out about twice a year, and as soon as you put it out, it starts to looking nasty, it starts fading, turning grey.”
The insects attracted by organic pine straw may also target a home if the pine straw is is next to the dwelling, said Prezioso, also owns Palmetto Promotions of Columbia. Natural pine straw also is labor intensive.
The pine straw is made from recycled polypropylene, a plastic used in ketchup, syrup and other bottles; ice cream, yogurt and salad bar containers; drinking straws and diapers, according to healthychild.org. It is considered one of the safer plastics, according to the website and others. The material does not absorb water or chemicals, according to recyclingplasticwaste.com.
Property managers at apartment and condominium complexes are the big users of synthetic straw, said Prezioso, a former captain of the University of South Carolina golf team. Under his contract with Textraw, Prezioso will have distribution rights in the Palmetto State from Columbia to the coast. He will warehouse the product in Columbia and at Pawley’s Island.
Carvin said he invented the synthetic pine straw about 20 years ago and patented the product in 2001. Initially, Carvin said, he sold the straw in a big box home improvement store in Georgia, but the product wasn’t displayed well and consumers never got the opportunity to learn about it.
So, Carvel started to market the product by installing landscaping at Chick-fil-A restaurants in Fayetteville, N.C., which raised public interest, then at QuickTrip convenience stores in Georgia.
Pine straw traditionally has been used primarily in the Southeast, Georgia and South Carolina, Carvin said. North Carolina, however, is the largest consumer of the product, he said.
Carvin said he expects to see the product marketed in places such as California and the Midwest.
Textraw has been working to improve the product over the years, he said, including helping to keep the product in place and improving color retention.
“It really is a good answer for people who are looking for something that’s going to stay good looking all year round, reduce the flammability of the material and also be better for bugs and leeches. Whenever you put out fresh pine straw you’re introducing the leeches that were in the forest that go along with it.”
Synthetic pine straw should be a hit on the S.C. coast, Carvin said, because organic pine straw and mulch breaks down even faster in areas where it is exposed to sea water and air. Organic pine straw is also a fire hazard, he said.
One of the reasons synthetic pine straw is more commercially applicable than residentially is the cost. A bale costs about $45 to $50, but Prezioso said the synthetic straw “pays for itself” in about 18 months when compared to organic pine straw usage.
Good quality, long-leaf organic pine straw typically costs $6 to $7 a bale, Carvin said, and covers about 35-square feet per bale, Carvin said. Purchased in quantity, Textraw can cost $43 a bale and cover 45 square feet.
“You put this out once and then you fluff it up every couple months and it looks brand new,” Prezioso said. “It looks like it just fell off a tree.”