The Future of Straws in Vietnam Is Looking Much Greener (and Edible)

It goes without saying that single-use plastic is a problem. We’re growing more and more accustomed to seeing the mounting evidence on beaches across the world, massive garbage patches the size of Texas in our oceans, animals washed along our shores with tons (literally) of plastic found in their stomachs … the list feels infinite.

It’s estimated that just about 8.3 billion straws pollute the world’s beaches each year. Photo: Courtesy of Dustan Woodhouse/Unsplash

And plastic straws, as many of us are becoming much more aware, are one of the most ubiquitous types of plastic waste found – and for such a small item, they’re been shown to have a very big impact. The number of straws used by Americans daily (500 million) is enough straws to circle the globe 2.5 times, and a study published this year estimated that just about 8.3 billion straws pollute the world’s beaches each year.

In efforts to combat the plastic pollution crisis, people have gotten extremely creative with utilizing sustainable resources to find ways to attack different streams of plastic pollution at the source. One of these people is Tran Minh Tien, a Vietnamese entrepreneur that has begun converting one of the most prevalent grasses in Mekong Delta, Vietnam, into drinking straws.

This sedge grass, known as Lepironia articulata, is found in wetlands and marshes across the Mekong Delta region, and has a naturally shaped hollow stem. Tran’s company Ống Hút Cỏ, takes the grass, cuts, washes, and then cleans the inside of the stems with an iron rod before wrapping in banana leaves to prepare to ship.

He sells these grasses in two forms: fresh and dried. The fresh ones can be stored in the refrigerator and last for up to two weeks, whereas the dried once can be stored at room temperature for about six months.

What’s more: these straws contain no chemical products or preservatives, they can be reused, and … they are believed to have some dental hygiene benefits. According to Ống Hút Cỏ, “Chewing them after eating helps clean your teeth and gum[s].”

While many companies are making major strides in creating plastic straw alternatives made out of materials like glass or stainless steel, these products lack the disposability that many restaurants require.

Innovations like this help provide an option for food and drink establishments that are adamant on providing straws as an option to their customers, with an alternative that is not only environmentally friendly, but economical. And at about two cents per fresh straw, and four cents for the dried straws, they also pack a formidable wallet-friendly punch.

While these straws are not yet available for purchase in the United States, their goal is to soon make this an alternative world wide. And with their Facebook video amassing almost 3 million views and over 43,000 shares in just two weeks, there is most certainly an audience that wants these, with an interest in integrating these straws into everyday life.

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