A plant substitute for plastic straws

A plant substitute for plastic straws

Stemming from concern

The adage ‘listen to your elders’ has worked well for 28-year-old Shiva Manjesh, a civil engineer in Bengaluru. For, it has led him, and his childhood friends Jagadish Raj and Naveen, to craft eco-friendly straws from castor plant stems.

“I heard from my grandparents that castor stems were used as straws in villages. We had forgotten about the use because, in the city, plastic had been convenient until now,” explains Shiva.  

The trio has been distributing the straws across Bengaluru since September last year, on a trial basis. 

“So far, 1,500-plus straws have reached tender coconut vendors, juice stalls and eateries in Dasarahalli, Basavanagudi, Malleshwaram and Jayanagar,” says 30-year-old Jagadish Raj, a PR professional.  

 

 

The reception, mostly positive, has brought them questions about the making of the straws. Just before piercing the coconut water with a castor straw, Radha, a flummoxed user, asks, “What if there are insects resting inside it?” 

“No, it’s safe and healthy. We grow a hybrid variety of castor plant in my Tumakaru farm for this purpose. Stems are then washed thoroughly with hot and then saline water. They are shaped. The straws are completely biodegradable,” Shiva assures.  

Rangegowda, a farmer from Hassan, takes stock, “Hybrid plant varieties are hardy, require little manure to grow. As a commercial crop, its seeds are used for oil. If grown for making straws, the plants will benefit farmers, yes.” 

The straws come as two kinds, the sun-dried — fit for export — and the fresh — more suitable for one-time use. They have a shelf life of two months.

Just a few months ago, a vendor in Malleshwaram placed an order of 12,000 straws.

“But we haven’t entered the market yet. We have submitted a product proposal and await a lab report from the CFTRI (Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysuru),” adds Jagadish.   

The trio says the straws will cost less than the available straws in the market.   

“The government bans plastic but gives no substitutes. We offer one, and I hope they see it’s a small solution to our looming plastic problem,” he adds.   

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