Grasping at Straws – A Good Thing for One Local York County Industry


If you have ever slurped a beverage through a plastic reusable straw, chances are that beverage made its way into your mouth via a straw manufactured right here in York County, South Carolina.

Yes. That straw. The one you searched for in the bottom of the dishwasher last week. You know, the one that goes in your favorite name brand tumbler? The one you drank out of in that visit to the hospital, or the one you took home as a souvenir from your latest cruise, or maybe even the straw that accompanied the cup you toted home from one of the happiest places on earth.

Those straws are the ones we are talking about -- and Ronnie Roberts, owner of Southeastern Liquid Analyzers (SELA) located in York, knows a thing or two about them.

He gave us the whole story, a story that didn’t include straws in the company’s inception back in 1983. As a matter of fact, when he started the company out of his father’s garage, straws were nowhere on his radar.

Southeastern’s first product was actually a device designed and patented to sample and visually analyze the contents of underground fuel storage tanks. This device helped to monitor fuel inventory, contamination detection and aided in overall quality control measurements.

From there, Ronnie began designing disposable liquid sampling devices made of plastic for the chemical, pharmaceutical and hazardous waste industries. The market for these items grew while corporate contracts were negotiated with a wide array of companies, including several Fortune 500 companies across North America

And Southeastern’s growth didn’t stop there. By the mid 90’s they had expanded and grown, adding a plastic extrusion line to manufacture plastic pipe, rod and tubes used in various samplers. Knowing that the newly added machinery would have excess capacity, a new product line was created to fill that void.

That product line was none other than (you guessed it) – straws.

The rest in history, over 30 years of history that is. This ever-changing manufacturer has plans too. Those plans include continuing to reduce their carbon footprint by adding a compostable straw to their list of products, one that (upon disposal) leaves no visible, distinguishable or toxic residue in the ground. This, Roberts says, is a natural progression in meeting the needs of their customers.

Many Millions of straws later, we may never know just how many may have quenched their thirst through these plastic reusable straws made here in York County. And with new products on the horizon, that number is certain grow. So next time you sip, most definitely ponder where that straw was made, and of course, always stay thirsty!


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