Elizabeth Warren and Seaweed Straws

Grind for March 12th, 2019
“I have no enthusiasm for nature which the slightest chill will not instantly destroy.”

– George Sand

Shots Fired

The Headline

Elizabeth Warren declares war on big tech

The Grind

Massachusetts Senator and 2020 presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren (D) on Friday unveiled her plan to take down Facebook, Google, and Amazon.

These companies have “too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy,” she wrote. “They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else.”

Warren’s aggressive proposal seeks to break up “anti-competitive mergers” such as Facebook’s ownership of WhatsApp and Instagram and Amazon’s ownership of Wholefoods.

“Unwinding these mergers will promote healthy competition in the market – which will put pressure on big tech companies to be more responsive to user concerns, including about privacy.”

The Details

Warren compared big tech companies to the oil and steel monopolies of the Gilded Age and accused Amazon of “crushing small companies” by copying their goods and selling branded versions of those goods on its online marketplace.

If she is elected, her Administration will push for laws blocking big tech companies from participating on their own platforms.

For example, Amazon wouldn’t be allowed to sell its own products and Google wouldn’t be allowed to prioritize its own search results.

Warren’s proposal was met with criticism from free-market advocates who insist her plan would harm business.

Big tech companies shouldn’t be punished for “earning market share and operating at scale,” says Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation.

“The next wave of technological innovations will likely require enormous economies of scale to serve consumers,” adds Jessica Melugin, associate director of the center for technology and innovation at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “In the meantime, there are no barriers to entry for the next killer app or sector-disrupting entrepreneur.”

Shares of Facebook, Amazon, and Google dropped immediately in response to Warren’s proposal.

I’ll Believe It When I See It

The Headline

Startup “Loliware” claims biodegradable seaweed straws look and feel like plastic

The Grind

Startup Loliware claims to have invented a seaweed straw that “looks, feels, and acts like plastic.”

The invention comes amid a nationwide push by environmentalists to eliminate single-use plastics.

The Details

Americans use about 500 million plastic straws each day. Most of these end up in landfills or oceans – where they will remain for hundreds of years.

“Every piece of plastic ever created still exists,” says Loliware CEO Chelsea Briganti. “There are five trillion pieces of plastic in our oceans; an estimated ten million tons of plastic is produced every second. Single-use plastics should never be built to last, they should be designed to disappear.”

Several US cities have responded to the problem by banning plastic straws – instead offering consumers paper straws that get mushy after a few minutes. Other options include metal straws, which are difficult to clean, and glass straws, which present obvious safety concerns.

Loliware’s solution is a firm straw built from “hyper-compostable” seaweed that breaks down like a banana peel. According to Loliware, the straws have a “neutral taste” and will remain firm in liquid for up to 18 hours.

Loliware products use vegetable-based dyes and are free from sugar, gluten, and GMOs. The company already has deals with Marriott and Pernod Ricard and plans to start shipping its first straws this month.

Did you know… In 1967, Australia’s Prime Minister, Harold Holt, decided to go swimming one day and was never seen again.