“The world is changed by example, not by opinion”– Paulo Coelho
Single Use Plastics
Single use plastics have been known to have adverse effects on the Environment since long. The manufacturing of single use plastics began from the requirement of storing food and beverages temporarily. However, the highest usage of single use plastics, was found to be in the production of straws. More than 500 Million straws are used in the United States of America, every single day, which makes the annual utility rise up to an alarming 180 Billion Straws. An astonishing number of 100,000 marine animals are killed every year due to choking on plastic straws alone.
Temporary Paper Alternative
Paper straws were introduced to combat this environmental hazard, but they lost out on credibility due to turning soggy towards the end of the drink. This ruined people’s experience of enjoying their Milkshake or Margarita, as drinkers were left with a stale after-taste of the soggy paper straws.
Vietnamese Plant Solution
Meet Tran Minh Tien, a man from Vietnam who has found the perfect and most eco-friendly alternative to both paper and plastic straws. He has made straws from grass, thereby giving the advantage of being fully bio-degradable, unlike plastic.
The Prodigal Plant
The grass belongs to the species “Lepironia Articulata” – more commonly known as ‘co bang’ in the Mekong Delta region. The plant is also found in Madagascar, India, Sri Lanka, Southern China, Malaysia, Indonesia, New Guinea, and various islands of the western Pacific (Ryukyu Islands, Caroline Islands, Fiji, Tonga, New Caledonia). It also occurs in Northern and Eastern Australia, as far south as Thirlmere Lakes National Park in New South Wales.
The most surprising thing about the straws is, that along with being fully chemical free, they are also fully edible. The “co bang” grass shoots contain medicinal properties, that promote clean gums and teeth upon chewing. This is truly beneficial after a quick meal or drink, and prevents cavities from being formed, along with removing poor mouth odour.
There are 2 kinds of straws produced from this species of grass – fresh and dried. In both cases, the grass is first harvested, washed and then cut into adequately sized tubes (20 centimetres long). Then, an iron rod is used to give the tubes a neatly designed shape and to clean them from inside. The shaped straws are washed one last time, and then ready to be used.
To manufacture the dried type of straws, the shaped and cleaned tubes are left under the sun for 2-3 days and then baked in an oven.
A fresh straw can last for around two weeks in a refrigerator, whereas a dried can last for an impressive six months.
The straws are currently being sold in a batch of 100. The fresh straws cost 600 Vietnamese dongs (0.02 USD) and the dried ones cost 1000 Vietnamese dongs (0.04 USD).
One can only hope that these straws are manufactured and bought all over the world, to make it a better place for the generations to come. Imagine the tonnes of plastic waste we could avoid!