Testing biodegradable straws in B.C.

A Vancouver-based straw company has found a unique solution to keep them from disintegrating in your drink. But can these and other green substitutes actually help the environment? Sarah Chew finds out.

By Sarah Chew

A Vancouver-based company has found a unique solution to keep straws from disintegrating in your drink.

Straws N’ Stuff’s solution to soggy paper straws is straws made from reeds. The company’s CEO says these straws can be reused up to 10 times.

While this product might seem new to Canada, Artan Buzulan says these straws are quite common in Europe and China.

“It’s not harmful. It’s just a piece of grass. It’s not even (harmful) if somebody’s going to eat this; this is biodegradable inside of the stomach of some creature,” he explained.

Buzulan says, like paper straws, reed straws do break, but instead of crumbling mid-sip, it degrades in three months. The plant is also an invasive species that contribute to wildfires.

“There’s basically no footprint. By cutting this before it’s getting into fire, we actually reduce the CO2 footprint or even make this negative. If we cut the field and it’s not going to burn this year, we reduce the CO2.”

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University of British Columbia (UBC) research associate Juan José Alava says the general idea when replacing a plastic product is to look for cleaner, greener materials that won’t cause harm or damage to the environment, wildlife, and coastal communities.

Alava says less than 10 per cent of plastic waste is recycled in Canada, and the rest goes to landfills or into the environment. So, any way to cut down on what we throw out is valuable, and that includes Vancouverites shopping with reusable cloth bags.

“On some level we need to think about how we are going to dispose of these recyclables, but made of plastic or that kind of material. So it might be an issue in the long term, but in the short term maybe it’s useful to try to avoid and to outweigh the use of more plastic bags,” he said.

Biodegradable wooden straws are shown.

Straws N’ Stuff’s biodegradable straws are made of wooden reeds from instruments. (CityNews Image)

No matter what straw you use, Alava says any reduction in your use of plastic is good for the environment.

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