You can have your straw and eat it too as SA student creates yummy edible straws to help the environment

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SA student creates deliciously flavoured edible straws to help reduce plastic pollution

We all want to feel moved, and then to use that to create joy, passion, and purpose. To do so, we don’t always have to dig deep into our own soul to get inspired.

For most of us, creativity often feels like it’s lurking just around the corner and simply can’t be reached. To a good extent, you have to let creativity and inspiration come to you.

For 19-year-old Leila Siljeur, seeing a Facebook post of a sea turtle with a plastic fork stuck in its nose was all the inspiration she needed to ignite her passion of playing her part to conserve the environment.

The South African chemical engineering student at Stellenbosch University (SU) has found a way to reduce plastic pollution by creating her own edible and environmental friendly straws.

Leila Siljeur, a second-year student who is passionate about conserving the environment, has, so far, received a winning prize for her edible straws.

The environmentally friendly straws have won her R50000 (about 3,000 dollars) in the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation National Jamboree.

Her invention, which is registered under the name Eat Me Straws, comes in regular, health, and vegan flavours.

Her edible straws don’t get soft and pulpy when one puts them in a wet substance.

“The ‘Eat Me Straw’ is an edible and biodegradable straw made from naturally decomposing ingredients. The great thing is, even if you do not want to eat it, you can simply throw it out into the garden and it biodegrades.”

“Even though companies are producing biodegradable straws, some still end up in the ocean, posing a threat to marine life,” said Siljeur.

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Leila Siljeur with the trophy she won for her “Eat Me Straw”

“The straws can be coloured and flavoured as per customer specifications. We use different bases for the three ranges – gelatine for regular straws, plants for vegan straws and fruit for the health variety,” she said

She said that when she started designing the straws, she “played around with different binding, emulsifying and deglazing agents because she didn’t want sticky straws that could affect the taste of the customer’s drink,” a report by Stellenbosch University said.

She adds that the texture of the straws is a mixture of liquorice and dried fruit.

Stellenbosch University said that Siljeur and her team have been selling small batches of 10 to 20 edible straws informally to students since last year and the feedback has been positive.

Siljeur said that with her prize money, she and her team look to expand and they were partnering with SU’s Consulting Society and Accenture in Cape Town.

The 19-year-old plans to produce more straws and sell them to businesses in Stellenbosch and other parts of the country.

She hopes to sell a massive batch to a variety of businesses and fast food chains such as KFC, McDonald’s and health shops so that they can distribute them. That way, “it doesn’t come directly out of the consumer’s pocket,” she explained.

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