“What’s the point of having a straw – usually a plastic straw?” asked Aaliyah Kathrada, co-founder of Sip Conscious Straws in an interview with The Daily Vox. “The point is, we’re lazy and as the human race so we need a device that transports liquid from here to there without us moving.”
“We understand that people want straws but we want an alternative to single-use plastic straws that have really detrimental effects on the environment particularly marine life,” Kathrada said.
Sip Conscious Straws is a social enterprise committed to environmental conservation and sells stainless steel straws as an alternative to single-use plastic straws.
“Plastic straws is the the worst thing for the environment,” Kathrada said. “It lasts for about 20 minutes – it takes you about 20 minutes to drink your drink – and then it stays in the world forever. It cannot be recycled, it’s not biodegradable – it just breaks down into smaller pieces of microplastic that’s often invisible to us. It gets dumped into landfills or oceans and it just stays there. In the ocean it can harm fish and marine life. It can also be ingested by fish and then we end up ingesting it by eating fish so we could have pieces of plastic in our body that can cause health risks.”
Kathrada and her business partner wanted to provide a commercial strategy to address the environmental problem posed by plastic straws. The two looked at various alternatives to plastic straws including glass and bamboo straws but steel turned out to be the better option.
“Steel is the most recyclable material in the world. It’s very durable, it’s versatile, it’s affordable. The main thing is that it won’t break. You can use it over and over again, it won’t break. It will insulate your drinks, so if you’re drinking a hot drink it will keep your drink hot and the straw won’t melt and if you’re drinking a cold drink it will retain the temperature,” she said.
There has been talk of biodegradable plastic, plastic that supposedly decomposes naturally in the environment. But Kathrada said biodegradable plastic is a lie, it is not biodegradable.
“It can only be commercially composted and broken down. That means every time you use a biodegradable straw, you have to put it in your bag or the restaurant has to keep it and then send it to a plant that does it and it can only be biodegraded at very specific temperatures and conditions – and that often doesn’t happen. We don’t have the capacity in South Africa to do that,” she said.
Using so-called biodegradable plastic does not send a message of environmental sustainability and conservation, she added. “You just think you’re using a normal straw when really we’re trying to conscientise people against single-use plastic,” Kathrada said.
When asked about people who don’t care about the environmental impact of their choices because they don’t think it makes a difference, Kathrada said change starts with intention and change starts with you. “If everyone had that attitude, nothing would get done but if one person has does it and another and another then finally we can grow a movement and really affect change,” she said.
About affecting change and social and environmental consciousness in our behaviour and consumption, Kathrada said: “There’s the three R’s: reuse, reduce and recycle. Just be conscious about the footprint that you’re leaving so try as hard as you can to reuse things, to reduce your consumption of single-use plastic, plastic packaging, things like that. As much as you can, try to recycle. Just be conscious of what you’re doing to the earth that doesn’t necessarily belong to us.”
Each individual Sip Conscious package contains four stainless steel straws, a cleaning brush, and a carrier bag made from local shweshwe material and retails for R200. Sip Conscious Straws also offers bulk packages. You can purchase the straws at the online store or contact the enterprise to make your purchase.
Watch the full interview below.