Wed, Jun 26, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Environmentalist promotes reed straw use

By Chiou Chih-jou and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Environmentalists Chen Chiao-yu, left, and Lin Yu-ching display flute reeds in the Wugoushui Community of Pingtung County’s Wanluan Township on Sunday as they promote straws made of the plant.

Photo: Chiu Chih-jo, Taipei Times

An environmentalist in Pingtung County is promoting the use of drinking straws made from reeds as an environmentally friendly alternative to plastic straws.

Spurred by restrictions on the use of plastic straws that are to come into effect next month, a number of companies have proposed biodegradable alternatives, such as straws made from reinforced paper or pasta.

However, many such products have met with challenges, such as a higher cost of production or an inability to retain rigidity when submerged in liquids for a long time.

Environmentalist Chen Chiao-yu (陳喬妤), who frequently hosts activities along the riverside in the county’s Wanluan Township (萬巒), on Sunday said that she has come up with the idea of making straws out of the reeds that grow along the river.

Phragmites karka — commonly known as “tropical reed,” or “flute reed” — grows in areas with shallow water, such as river banks. They grow up to 4m tall and look like bamboo.

Because of their sturdy bamboo-like structure, the reeds are used for construction in many cultures, and the stalks can be used to make other items, such as curtains and flutes, and can even be used as an ingredient in cooking.

Reeds are a perfect alternative to plastic straws, as they are biodegradable, sturdy and easily hollowed out, Chen said.

Chen said that she teaches visitors how to make their own straws from reeds by cutting them into short segments and then hollowing them out with chopsticks.

The hollowed-out center can be up to a 2.5cm in diameter, making them even usable for drinks that contain tapioca balls, environmentalist Lin Yu-ching (林雨青) said.

Reed straws can be washed and reused countless times and would make a great product for environmentally conscious people, she added.

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