Be it a roadside vendor selling tender coconuts or a fine dining restaurant serving a beautifully garnished mocktail, in India, plastic straws still continue to be an inevitable part of our everyday life. While some pinpoint lack of awareness as the main reason, most sellers would cite the absence of a viable alternative to a plastic straw. It must be mentioned here that every year, 8.3 billion plastic straws pollute the world’s beaches, as revealed by a study by researchers from University of California.
Efforts For Good interacted with a few small-scale traders who still copiously provide plastic straw to their buyers and all of them had a similar query – “If not plastic straw, then what?”
While a handful of organisations have started manufacturing reusable metal straws or biodegradable bamboo straws, the high price and limited availability remain the bane.
While India might still struggle with the menace of plastic straws, one of the highest contributors to plastic pollution, Vietnam seems to have chanced upon a rather permanent solution.
Fresh and dried straws from wild riverine grass
Vietnamese organisation Ong Hut Co is processing reusable, biodegradable straws from wild sedge grass (Lepironia articulata) which grows abundantly along the Mekong Delta, reported The Epoch Times.
Young Vietnamese entrepreneur Tran Minh Tien, the founder of Ong Hut Co is creating headlines in his country for coming up with this innovative yet simple solution to eliminate one of the biggest pollutants of the planet.
The grass straws are available in two varieties – fresh and dried. For making the straws, at first, a bunch of the collected grass is washed and chopped into perfect 20 cm long pieces. Using an iron rod, the inside the of the stem is hollowed out and cleaned, as described by Tran Minh Tien himself, in a video shared by VnExpress International. After repeated rinsing in water, the fresh green straws are wrapped into bunches in banana leaves and are sent for the market.
The dried version of the straws requires a little extra effort and time, as the fresh straws are sun-dried for two to three days. Following this, the straws are baked in an oven, making them fit for reuse multiple times.
Low price and easy storage
Presently the straws can only be found in local markets of Vietnam, priced around INR 1.6 for the fresh one and INR 2.7 for the dried variety. Even long term storage of the straws is a cakewalk. In a ziplock bag, the fresh ones can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks, while the dried straws can be kept intact in room temperature for up to six months.
The straws have a pleasant natural smell of their own, which is bound to elevate a regular drink into a soothing experience. The straw-makers advise the user to soak the straws in normal water, soapnut (Reetha), boiled water or salt water. After usage, a fresh straw can decompose within days when disposed of in a compost bin.
Efforts For Good hopes the grass straws do not remain restricted to an internet sensation, rather they are soon marketed globally for eradicating the plastic straw menace for once and for all.