Beyond any doubt, plastic pollution has become a truly global menace to wildlife and it is high time we made our choice: planet, or plastic?
The problem of plastic pollution is especially pressing in Asia. According to BlissSaigon, Vietnam currently has one of the highest plastic disposal rates in the world, along with China, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand.
Scientists of the Institute for Management of Sea and Islands in Vietnam have estimated that the country dumps between 28 and 73 million tons of plastic in the world ocean each year, which is 6% of the global annual plastic pollution of the ocean.
UNILAD’s Emily Murray quotes alarming scientific reports revealing that over 700 marine species have been affected by plastic entering oceans. In the Canadian Arctic, for instance, 87% of the birds have ingested various types of plastic particles.
One man from Vietnam, Tran Minh Tien, has now joint the efforts of the global community to reduce the use of plastic worldwide. His one-man enterprise has been making biodegradable straws from a type of grass known as ‘Lepironia articulata’, which is prolific in the Mekong Delta region in Vietnam.
Not only are Tran’s straws biodegradable, but they are also hypoallergenic, as they contain no chemicals or preservatives.
In an interview with VN Express International, Tran explains how he collects the hollow stems of grass, washes them and chops them into 20-centimeter-long straws.
The inside of the straws is forced out using metal wire. Then, the hollow straws are washed again to make sure they are safe to use.
The ready straws are wrapped in Banana leaves and are taken to the local market. Tran’s straws reportedly last one week at room temperature, which is a lot given the average room temperature in Vietnam, or two weeks in the fridge. Their shelf-life can be further extended if kept in the freezer.
The dried version of Tran’s eco-friendly straw is left in the sun for two days and is then baked in an oven. The dried straws can be kept at room temperature for up to six months.
The green straws can be bought online on Tran’s website Ong Hut Co.
There, you can also find some tips on how to make the most of your purchase.
As quoted by UNILAD, Tran explains:
“The product is wrapped in banana leaves, bundled with 100 tubes, when you buy it, put it all in a nylon zip bag and put it in the refrigerator compartment. The suction tube can be stored in a cool compartment for up to two weeks. If you do not use it all, boil light salt water and then dry it for longer use.
Grass straws are designed to be used once in every restaurant. For individuals who buy, you can try to re-use grass straws many times. After each use, it can be cleaned with salt water and drained into a cool compartment. The manufacturer believes that you should not throw away this straw after 1 time of use.
Although I know paper straws are environmentally friendly, they are awful to use so I am always looking for alternatives… and this may just be what I was searching for!”