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Vietnamese bamboo straws adorn world drinks

People are turning against plastic straws, and a 32-year-old man has come up with a reusable bamboo alternative for the once ubiquitous and popular item that has become a symbol of throw-away culture.

Vietnamese bamboo straws adorn world drinks hinh anh 1

Bamboo straws aren’t recyclable because bamboo can’t be recycled. But overall they are 99 percent biodegradable. (Photo courtesy of Nguyen Van Mao)




Nguyen Van Mao was preparing to return to his hometown in the central province of Nghe Anto visit his fourth bamboo drinking straw workshop that opened few months ago.

Mao, alias “Mao Meo” (Cat), said with a monthly production capacity of 3-5million straws, the workshop is the biggest of his facilities.

The workshop in Nghe An, together with others in Hanoi, the southern provinceof Dong Nai and the Central Highland province of Gia Lai, are operating at fullcapacity to meet increasing orders from domestic and foreign partners, whichamount to 6 million straws each month.

Mao officiallybegan the production of bamboo straws earlier this year while running a bambooflute company. But the idea for it had been in his mind for some time, goingback to when he was a student at the Hanoi Architectural University. 

It was about reducing plastic waste by reinventing the conventional strawin an eco-friendly way, using a naturally grown, biodegradable material likebamboo.

Bamboo straws unrecyclable but biodegradable

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Although bamboo straws cost several times more than plastic varieties, they can be used for six months with regular cleaning and proper preservation. (Photo courtesy of Nguyen Van Mao)



Mao said bamboo and rattan pipes are cut into pieces 15 to 25 cm longand dried at 120 degrees Celsius.

“Althoughbamboo straws cost several times more than plastic varieties, they can be usedfor six months with regular cleaning and proper preservation.”

Each straw comes with a handy brush to clean it with. In order to ensure the longevity of the straws, after hand washing, youhave to let them fully dry to prevent any water building up inside the strawsand always store them in a well-ventilated area,” he added.

Bamboo straws aren’t recyclable because bamboo can’t be recycled. Butoverall they are 99 percent biodegradable, he said.

Mao’s bamboostraws are used by many hotels, restaurants and coffee shops nationwide, and exportedto major markets like the US, Germany, France, Japan, the Republic of Korea andTaiwan.

He earns from 12-14 billion VND (516,000-602,000 USD) per month and employabout 200 people.

The first order was for 2,000 straws to beshipped to Hungary. After Mao’s products received a certificate of food safetyand hygiene in Germany, foreign clients started visiting his workshop andplaced orders for millions of straws.

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Nguyen Van Mao (left) and Nguyen Anh Dung, head of the Vietnam Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei (China) at the cultural exchange. (Photo courtesy of Nguyen Van Mao)



Last March, Mao introduced his products to Taiwanese customers and businessesduring a cultural exchange in Taiwan (China) and signed several contracts withlocal partners.

Asked about the difficulties of starting up, Mao said he had travelled hundredsof kilometres through mountainous areas by motorbike to find materials forproduction.

“There are different types of bamboo and not all of them can be used fordrinking straw production,” he said.

He had to spend a huge amount of money promoting bamboo straws as plastic varietiesare widely available and convenient. It also took time to raise publicawareness of the benefits brought about by using environmentally-friendlyproducts as well as the long-term harmful effects of plastic.

Mao said that although there are vast bamboo and rattan areas to source hisbusiness, they may be exhausted one day. Therefore, the exploitation must beselective and his company is implementing a project to plant bamboo and rattantrees. 

He is also seeking ways to reduce the price of his straws in the domesticmarket in order to encourage more people to use them. Besides, he plans toproduce more environmentally-friendly products from bamboo and rattan likespoons, forks, bowls and cups in the future.

“I intend to create a full collection of eco-friendly products that giveconsumers an affordable alternative to using plastic ones.  I hope that youngsters don’t just switch tobamboo straws because it’s the new trend and then revert back to plastic,” Maosaid.

World drowning in plastic pollution

The United Nations revealed that the world produces about 300 million tonnes ofplastic every year. That’snearly equivalent to the weight of the entire human population.

Only 9 percent of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled. About 12percent has been incinerated, while the rest – 79 percent – has accumulated in landfills,dumps or the environment.

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In Vietnam, it is estimated that 1.8 million tonnes of plastic waste are generated every year, with plastic consumption increasing 16-18 percent annually. (Photo: VNA)



In Vietnam, it is estimated that 1.8million tonnes of plastic waste are generated every year, with plastic consumptionincreasing 16-18 percent annually. Vietnam is listed among the top fivecountries responsible for about 13 million tonnes of plastic dumped in the oceansevery year.

Statisticsfrom Vietnam’s Association of Plastic illustrate the scale of the problem. In1990, each Vietnamese person consumed 3.8kg of plastic per year, but 25 yearslater, the figure hit 41kg.

And plastic straws are highon the list of the most common objects fouling the seas. They are routinelyamong the 10 most collected items in beach cleanup programs, according to theWildlife Conservation Society. 

One study publishedearlier this year estimated as many as 8.3 billion plastic straws pollute theworld's beaches. They are rarelyrecycled and can take more than 100 years to degrade in water.

Straws, therefore,have become the villain of recent environmental campaigns across the world andin Vietnam in particular./. VNA

Thu Huong

Vietnamese firms to export straws made from coconut milk

Vietnamese firms to export straws made from coconut milk

Making straws from coconut milk can help to reduce plastic waste and boost exports of coconut products.

The 'count' of bamboos straws

The 'count' of bamboos straws

The name Nguyen Van Mao, or Mao Meo (Cat), is quite well known in the national start-up community. 


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