Zero-Waste Straws Made From Wild Grass In Vietnam Can Solve Global Plastic Straw Pollution

Image Credits: Ong Hut Co

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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.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

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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.

Wild Grass Straws

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.

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It's not how much we give
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- Mother Theresa Quote

‘Happy Fridge’: The Key To Bridge Food Wastage And Hunger Problem In India

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Rahul Khera and Gautam Jindal, volunteers (aka hunger heroes) at Feeding India, were among the many Delhi NCR residents accustomed to seeing hungry children pick up half-eaten burgers or stale sandwiches from the dustbin and savour those with the brightest smiles. Like many others, they also had the will to promote equitable food distribution but was perplexed about the approach, until they learnt about the community fridge initiative which has gained unprecedented success in Saudi Arabia and few other European countries. Meanwhile, community fridges were already being installed outside restaurants or in public places in a handful of cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Kochi.

Say Goodbye To Throwing Away Excess Food Because Now You Can Donate The Food To The Needy – Happy Fridge

Thank you for overwhelming response for the Happy Fridge concept. We need more funds from you to install more fridges like this across India. With the limited funds avaialble Feeding India was able to install three fridges only. Kindly donate here http://bit.ly/happyfridge

Posted by The Logical Indian on Saturday, October 27, 2018

Needless to mention, with a shocking 103rd rank in the Global Hunger Index and a food wastage estimate of around Rs 58,000 crore – India was perhaps the best country to implement such an initiative. With Gautam’s help, an enthusiastic Rahul invested his own savings to install a ‘Happy Fridge’ outside his residence at Sun City, Sector 54 in Gurgaon. Set up in 2017 by these Feeding India volunteers, the fridge in Gurgaon has inspired the NGO to scale up the project across India.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

‘Happy Fridge’ fostered many smiles

It didn’t take long for the local residents to learn about this laudable endeavour. They welcomed it, as wastage of excess food was a recurring problem in almost every household. “Intimating the localities was no mammoth task, thanks to social media. However, it was difficult to spread the word among those who actually needed the food,” shares Rahul, who went from auto stands to slums, inviting rickshaw pullers, ragpickers or roadside vendors to avail the community fridge any time they feel hungry. “The security guards of our residential complex played a huge role in explaining how the fridge works to the beneficiaries,” he adds.

The operational and maintenance costs of the ‘ happy fridge ‘ are being maintained diligently by the community members.

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Making memories, sprouting awareness

“I remember one young man who had arrived from a village looking for some menial day job. Somehow he had run out of his paltry savings and had no money to buy one decent meal a day. For about a month, our happy fridge was his solace, till he earned his first salary from a housekeeping job,” shares a jubilant Rahul.

In another incident, a truck driver returning in the wee hours of midnight was starving after a whole day’s hard work. He had run out of cooking fuel at his home, so our fridge was at his rescue.

“The residents keep all sorts of palatable dishes in the happy fridge, ranging from dry snacks, fruits to cooked meals. Sometimes, they even keep raw vegetables, to ensure not a single bit of good food ends up in their trash while other people go hungry to bed,” reveals Rahul.

On an average, each happy fridge supplies around 10-15 meals in a day. The gratitude and pure smiles of the hungry souls after a fulfilling meal are more than enough to continue to motivate Rahul and his neighbours. In fact, inspired by him, many other communities in the Delhi-NCR region set up community fridges in their areas.

Feeding India will set up 500 Happy Fridges

Since the past few years, Feeding India has been a prominent organisation working in the forefront to solve the hunger problem in India. Primarily, they were involved in redistributing leftover food from weddings and parties among the underprivileged people in different cities of India. Their volunteers, better known as “Hunger Heroes of India”, worked actively to bridge the gap between food wastage and food crisis.

“We used to get a lot of calls from individual households to collect their excess food. However, unfortunately, we lacked the manpower and planning to launch our programme on a door to door basis. We were desperately looking for an alternative when we learnt about the community fridges,” shares Srishti Jain, co-founder of Feeding India.

After interacting with Rahul Khera and other campaigners of community fridges, Feeding India decided to amplify this extraordinary project throughout the length and breadth of India. Presently, they have launched the #FightFoodWaste campaign to install 500 community fridges – nicknamed ‘ Happy Fridge ’. So any passer-by – be it a kid going to school without a lunchbox, or a labourer returning home late at night with no promise of a dinner – can now grab a pack of biscuits or a bowl of ‘dal-chawal’ (rice & lentil soup) to satiate their hunger. Click here to contribute for ‘ Happy Fridge ‘ and ensure India never sleeps hungry again.

Feeding India also urges everyone to make a promise to stop wasting food and instead consider donating it to those in need.

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Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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