One view of that video of a pitiful turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nose is all it takes to make you swear off drinking straws for good.
But can you really do without straws? According to this article, drinking through a straw is more hygienic than drinking from an aluminum can or glass from a restaurant. Both may harbor harmful bacteria from storage, mishandling, or improper washing. Drinking from a straw also prevents the staining of front teeth. And it’s helpful for those who have motor, strength, or swallowing disorders. For lovers of milk tea, a straw is the only way to get those chewy tapioca balls. (Read: Milk tea meets Jesus in every order of Grace in a Cup)
However, straws–particularly the single-use plastic variety– are made with toxic chemicals known to pollute the air. Because they’re non-recyclable, they end up in landfills or the ocean, where they endanger the lives of marine species like the aforementioned sea turtle. When plastic straws disintegrate, they become microplastics that are unknowingly consumed by fish and other sea creatures. Who knows? That tuna or swordfish you just enjoyed for lunch might have microplastics in its system.
Adrian Mendoza’s alternative to single-use plastic straws: edible ones made of rice flour and tapioca starch. “We looked at the current market and saw what was being used and did a little research on what were better alternatives,” says Adrian, 22-year-old founder of PH Sustainable. “We are not the first to come up with this idea and to make use of these ingredients. But I do believe that we did come up with a better alternative in terms of its aesthetic, durability, and the non-presence of aftertaste.” (Read: 3 Online Stores for Reusable Utensils, Cups, Straws)
The straws, which are smooth, soften when used for drinking, and boast a two-year shelf life, have already caught the attention of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, business owners, and local government units in their efforts to do away with single-use plastic and paper straws.
Adrian talks to My Pope Philippines about PH Sustainable’s edge over other edible straws and other edible items his company has up its sleeve.
When did you introduce your edible straws commercially and how are sales so far?
We just introduced them locally this year. We saw how other countries have been trying to implement this change and started asking ourselves why we can’t do it here in the Philippines. Gladly, microbreweries and some big-name brands are going to switch to our product!
Our sales have been quite weak, given the recent lockdowns caused by the Delta variant. However, we do believe that it’s only a setback for something better.
Currently, we are getting accredited by some big companies and we hope to let you know when we they announce them in hopes that they could start the rally on how people accept edible straws. In terms of microbreweries, we are serving Prominent Café, Chapter Coffee, Cube Coffee, and Vibe Café Central, to name a few. Our current target are these microbreweries as we do know that change needs to happen one small step at a time and when we start to make changes at the low level, big people will notice. We are also available in Shopee through our page PH Sustainable, for anyone who is with us in our cause for sustainability. (Read: 5 Easy Ways for a Sustainable Lifestyle)
What is an edible straw’s advantage over metal or bamboo straws?
The advantage of edible straws over metal and bamboo straws is how our product is zero-waste with a parallel balanced ecosystem. Our product is made from rice flour and tapioca starch, which are plants that, after being used, biodegrade back to the environment naturally without needing extra intervention.
Also, I do believe that there is still an important factor that we must consider with regards to convenience. For some people who carry nothing around except for their phones and wallets, carrying around a reusable straw might not be at the top of their minds. (Read: Mindful Living: What’s the deal with reusable bamboo straws?)
The idea of an edible straw sounds great. Are there any drawbacks to it?
It does sound great! The only drawback would be the price points compared to plastic and paper straws. When compared to plastic, the price difference is just too huge for the competition to even be possible. Paper straws are cheaper by a little, but the durability of paper straws is then questioned because we hate the feeling of not being able to finish our drink when our straws are completely dismembered.
However, it is through the awareness that our environment is being polluted that we need to make a conscious choice for change.
What is next on PH Sustainable’s pipeline?
PH Sustainable has big goals of making sustainable products more accessible to our community. Thus, there is a whole array of products that we could possibly enter soon.
However, I do believe that we must take this advocacy one step at a time to be able to make a change. Once we rush into things, the advocacy would no longer be what is running the company.