Much before Canada bans plastic straws by early 2021 to reduce non-recyclable waste, a cheap alternative has appeared.
A cafe owner in the Philippines has started giving her customers straws made of coconut leaves, and they are a huge hit. She calls them Lukay straws, after the local word for coconut leaves.
Sarah Tiu, the 37-year-old manager of Cafe Editha in the Surigao del Norte province, got the idea from vendors on an island where she had gone on a vacation. “We bought fresh buko (coconut) 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.
Tiu had been grappling with the problem of replacing plastic straws with an ecologically viable alternative. She had tried straws made of stainless steel and paper but her customers did not like them.
When she got back from the vacation and began the experiment at her cafe, she had not imagined how popular the new straws could be.
She posted pictures of the straws on the Facebook page of the cafe and got an overwhelming response.
“Thank you God for using me as an instrument of your goodness. I’m overwhelmed. I’m happy to post something inspiring but never did I thought it would be this huge,” she wrote on her Facebook. Many on her Facebook suggested other alternative such as bamboo straws.
Early this month, Starbucks announced it would eliminate single-use plastic straws from its more than 28,000 company-operated and licensed stores by making a straw-less lid or alternative-material straw options available.
While all single-use plastic is harmful for the environment, plastic straws are particularly so due to their unique shape. According to www.strawlessocean.org, most plastic straws are too lightweight to make it through the mechanical recycling sorter. They drop through sorting screens and mix with other materials and are too small to separate, contaminating recycling loads or getting disposed as garbage.
Lukay straws are not only easy to make but also look beautiful. Tiu posted a how-to video on YouTube so more people can make and use Lukay straws.