The plastic crisis is one of the greatest challenges facing planet Earth. One of such a plastic item is plastic straws that must be drained out from the environment. While going straw-free is the most eco-friendly option, many people rely on straws or prefer them for a variety of reasons. And hence, it becomes a necessity to search for an eco-friendly alternative.
While paper straws have seen a surge in popularity lately, many have criticized them for their lack of durability – in terms of them getting soggy. Metal straws have been popular too, they are reusable and have the ease of being washable.
But, now Tran Minh Tien from Vietnam has found a zero-waste alternative to sustainable plastic straws. His straws are made from grey sedge grass of the species Lepironia Articulata. The grass, locally known as “co bang”, grows around the Mekong Delta region in southwestern Vietnam.
Tran is the owner of Ống Hút Cỏ., a Vietnam-based company that makes two kinds of straws out of sedge grass – the fresh straws and the dried straws. The company was set up with the intention of protecting the environment by reducing the use of plastic straws. Hand-crafted by a group of women residing in Duc Hue, at Long An province, sedge grass has a hollow stem, making it perfect for use as a natural straw.
Process of making eco-friendly straws:
To make both types of straws, the grass is harvested, washed, and cut into straw-sized tubes – lengths measuring 20 centimeters (about 8 inches). Then, an iron rod is used to clean the inner part of the straws, followed by one last washing.
If these biodegradable straws are to be sold fresh, the process is done and they bundle the ready to use straws together using banana leaves. As the website says the fresh straws last for about two weeks in the fridge, and are best stored in a ziplock bag. If you want to make the fresh straws last even longer, the company’s website suggests boiling the straws with some salt, letting dry, and then storing in a cool dry place.
If they are to be sold dried there is more work to be done. They must leave the straws under the sun for two to three days and then bake them in an oven. This version can be stored at room temperature for up to six months.
Moreover, the straw made of wild grass has been taking off on social media. The video below details the process of how the grass is turned into food-safe straws.
Straw’s price and selling:
The company sells them in bundles of 100 with one dry straw costing 1,000 Vietnamese dongs ($0.043), and one fresh straw costing 600 Vietnamese dongs ($0.026). At the moment, the straws are only being sold in Vietnam, but Ống Hút Cỏ is experimenting with selling the dry straws to other countries.
The introduction of grass straws into the larger market is not only advantageous for Vietnam’s economy, but it is also great for the environment.