Tran Minh Tien, a Vietnamese entrepreneur, has been drawing worldwide acclaim for his idea of turning wild grass into straws. By Shrimayee Thakur
People all over the globe are trying to find a sustainable solution to the overuse of plastic in everyday items. One of the most recent solutions to the plastic problem is by Vietnamese entrepreneur, Tran Minh Tien. Tien is the owner of a Ống Hút Cỏ, a Vietnam-based company that makes straws out of sedge grass, a type of wild grass found growing along the Mekong Delta in Southern Vietnam.
Sedge grass naturally has a hollow stem, which makes it perfect as a natural straw. Ống Hút Cỏ has a unique process by which the grass is turned into food-safe straws.
Ống Hút Cỏ makes two kinds of straws: dried and fresh. To make both, the grass is first harvested, then washed and cut into straw-sized tubes. An iron rod is then used to clean the inner part of the straws. After cleaning, the straws are rewashed.
For a batch of straws that will be sold fresh, a bundle of 100 straws is created and then wrapped up in banana leaves. According to Ống Hút Cỏ’s website, the fresh straws can last up to around two weeks if you keep them refrigerated. It is also recommended to use a ziplock bag. In keeping with the sustainability agenda of grass straws, it is also recommended to use old, repurposed ziplock bags or any other plastic zipper bag, instead of buying new ones. To make the straws last even longer, Ống Hút Cỏ’s website suggests boiling the straws with salt, letting them dry, and then storing them in a cool, dry place.
For a batch of straws that are going to be sold dried, the straws, after being washed, are left out in the sun to dry for two to three days. Once dry, they are baked in an oven. This procedure dries the straws and increases their shelf life to approximately six months when kept at room temperature.
The two kinds of straws sold by Ống Hút Cỏ are both edible, and the company even says that chewing them after a meal can help keep teeth and gums clean. The straws are compostable, free of chemicals and preservatives, and affordable. While at the moment, the straws are only being sold in Vietnam, Ống Hút Cỏ is experimenting and selling dry straws to other countries. According to sources, Tien is very particular that the harvesting of sedge grass should never exceed its natural reproduction rate, as nature needs time to recover.