If things go according to plan, you could be sipping your drink using a bamboo straw by next year. A scientist from the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, has come out with a green alternative to use-and-throw plastic drinking straws, by tapping bamboo.
The bamboo species Schizostachyum andamanicum, endemic to the islands looks ideal for the purpose.
Discovered on the island about two decades ago, this bamboo is characterised by thin large hollow erect culm (stem) with long internodes.
Lal Ji Singh, scientist and head of office at BSI’s Andaman and Nicobar Regional Centre in Port Blair, said that in its natural form, the bamboo species cannot be used as a straw but after observing the plant’s appearance and structure, he found that it was ideal to be turned into a drinking straw.
Here’s how its done. First, the sections of the culm between the nodes are cut into small pieces, to the length of a drinking straw. This can be done either by machine or manually, and then the culm sheath and solid nodes are removed.
The work to make a bamboo straw at Dhanikhari Experimental Garden-cum-Arboretum, at the BSI Regional Centre has gone on since 2011.
“After I registered the invention with the patent office under the title Reusable Straw and Its Manufacturing, I took 5,000 sample straws and distributed it during the World Environment Day Celebrations held in New Delhi earlier this year,” Dr. Singh said.
Not only is a bamboo straw biodegradable, it can be reused for years. People can keep one in their homes and use it multiple times like tooth brushes, avoiding plastic straws. And the cost? Just 50 paise per piece. Its longevity makes it cheaper than plastic.
BSI Director Paramjit Singh said that the invention is timely in the campaign against plastic pollution.
“If the per capita consumption of plastic has to be brought down, it can be done by promoting natural products like bamboo and jute and other such innovations,” he said.
Dr. Singh said the ‘straw bamboo’ is found all over the islands and can be cultivated by farmers.