Given Tamil Nadu’s recent plastic ban and the crackdown on single use plastics across the country earlier last year, restaurants and fast food outlets have taken to removing plastic straws from their inventory, opting to use paper straws instead. While the move towards paper straws is an improvement, these are also single-use, and can be inconvenient, and ultimately, wasteful. However, Tamil Nadu’s coconut vendors have discovered an ingenious sustainable alternative that is a budget friendly answer to everyone’s dilemmas.
These vendors are now using papaya stalks to make eco-friendly alternatives to plastic straws. This innovative idea caught people’s attention after Madurai based Thangam Pandian shared a photograph with a tender coconut seller, who has started using papaya stalk after the plastic ban. An organic farming enthusiast himself, Pandian, in an interview with The News Minute said “He (the tender coconut seller) had collected them from his own farm, and these are available in plenty in papaya farms usually. This is the stalk that bears the fruit and the leaves. And farmers usually keep trimming the leaves, so there’s plenty of stem available. It is interesting that he has made use of them.” What makes this alternative even more eco-friendly is the fact that the material that is used to make the straw is in fact waste being put to good use. Pandian explains how the papaya stalk used is the material that is left behind while producing papaya milk. Also, the stalk is sun-dried during the process, which makes it sturdy and the ideal raw material to make straws.
“There are very few plants with a hollow stalk like that of papaya. If you take corn stalk, it has a spongy filling inside, which makes it unfit to be used as [a] straw. However, we do have the hardy sugarcane grass known as naanal in Tamil (botanical name: Saccharum arundinaceum), and plain old straw (vaikol in Tamil), can also be used to serve the purpose,” he added.
Here is hoping that the wave of sustainability that washed over Tamil Nadu with the coming of the new year is here to stay.
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