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Posted on: May 13, 2019 at 5:05 pm

“Even if your efforts may only make a tiny dent in the case, never stop fighting for what you believe in.” – Anonymous

There’s no other way to say it, except loud and clear – humans are rapidly causing major harm to the earth. The amount of industrial, domestic, and commercial waste released into the environment on a daily basis makes me wonder how the earth has managed to hold up for so long.

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In 2016, global statistics showed that the 7 billion people in the world produced 320 million tons of plastic [1]. This figure is expected to double by the year 2034. 100,000 marine animals are killed by plastic pollution in the water bodies every year. Plastic is non-biodegradable and takes hundreds to thousands of years to decompose [2]. Within this period, tons of harmful chemicals and gases are released into the environment, which are hazardous to the health of humans and animals. Plastic pollution makes the soil less fertile and safe for cultivation.

While plastic straws may not be the biggest contributor to plastic waste, they are a part of the problem. 500 million plastic straws are used daily in the U.S alone, and an estimated 8.3 billion of these straws pollute beaches around the world. They contribute to 4% of the plastic waste by piece, and despite weighing so little, they are non-biodegradable and can contribute significantly to the environmental harm [3].

Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.

37-year-old Sarah Tiu, manager of Café Editha in Surigao Del Norte, The Philippines, has always had the dream to eradicate the use of plastic straws in her café. Speaking to Inquirer, Tiu says she initially tried to use paper and stainless straws to serve beverages to her customers, but they disliked these substitutes [4]. There was always something wrong with each one every time.

A trip to Corregidor Island gave her the idea that would make her café more eco-friendly and suit her customers at the same time.

“We bought fresh buko and they just cut lukay, then made it into straws. So we asked them to teach us [because] we were very impressed with the idea,” Tiu said.

Buko is coconut juice, and lukay is the local term for coconut leaves and fronds. Coconut leaves are biodegradable and compostable.

Her customers immediately took to it, uploading pictures of lukay straws in glass pitchers on their social media pages. The straws are tightly bound and leak-proof, and no one has to deal with that annoying sound you hear when a straw has a tear or a hole.

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According to Tiu, she shared photos of her straws on her Facebook page, encouraging other restaurateurs and café owners to tread the same path. She says it takes less than two minutes to make one straw, and she undertakes the task with her workers every morning before the café opens for business.

With bans on plastic straws increasing worldwide, organic substitutes don’t have to be lukay straws only (although they are strong and workable). There are many non-plastic alternatives to straws out there!  If every restaurateur, bar owner, café owner, and juice vendor around the world could take up this idea, they’d be making an incredible collective effort in the reduction of global plastic pollution.

  1. PLASTIC POLLUTION – FACTS AND FIGURES. Admin. Surfers against Sewage. Retrieved from https://www.sas.org.uk/our-work/plastic-pollution/plastic-pollution-facts-figures/. No date available.
  2. The Decomposition of Waste in Landfills: A Story of Time and Materials. Rick Leblanc. The balances small business. Retrieved from https://www.thebalancesmb.com/how-long-does-it-take-garbage-to-decompose-2878033. April 27, 2019.
  3. Science Says: Amount of straws, plastic pollution is huge. Seth Borenstein. Phys. Retrieved from https://m.phys.org/news/2018-04-science-amount-straws-plastic-pollution.html. April 21, 2018.
  4. Siargao cafe uses eco-friendly ‘lukay’ straws made of coconut leaves. Ves Garcia. Inquirer. Retrieved from https://lifestyle.inquirer.net/333115/siargao-cafe-uses-eco-friendly-lukay-straws-coconut-fronds/. April 26, 2019.
  5. A brief history of how plastic straws took over the world. Sarah Gibbens. National Geographic. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2018/07/news-plastic-drinking-straw-history-ban/. January 2, 2019.

 

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