A Korean company is making eco-friendly, edible straws to limit the impact of single-use plastic on the environment.
Seoul-based company Yeonjigonji makes edible rice straws that smell like rice but don’t alter the taste of a beverage in any way, The Hindu reports.
Made of 70% rice flour and 30% tapioca powder, the rice straws are more solid than plastic straws and have the benefit of being edible.
For those who choose not to eat the straw, it decomposes in a maximum of 100 days, in comparison to plastic straws, which take as long as 200 years to decompose.
CEO Kwang-Pil Kim decided to make edible straws out of rice, a staple in South Korean cuisine, and it took him about a year and a half of research and testing to create the product in October 2018.
The company now produces about 500 million straws per month at its Vietnam factory, and the rice straws are used in major department stores, as well as cafes and hotels in South Korea.
Kim says the company also has contracts to export the rice straws to countries like Canada, Malaysia and Singapore.
While the rice straws are more eco-friendly, the one thing the straws are not yet able to compete on is price.
Rice straws cost about 35 KRW each ($0.03), which may not seem like much unless compared to plastic straws, which cost about 6 KRW (about half a penny) each.
Despite the cost, these straws are in demand by businesses that want to reduce their impact on the environment.
With the EU Parliament approving a ban on single-use plastic last year, there could be an increase in demand for products like Kim’s rice straw.
Other companies are getting in the game as well, like Loliware, the US-based company that inspired Kim to create edible straws, which makes its own edible straws from seaweed, designed with a similar look and feel of plastic straws.
Kim’s next big challenge is to get the price of the rice straws below that of plastic straws, which he believes he can do with increased production.
“If we can produce 2 to 2.5 billion rice straws a month, we’ll be able to cut the production cost by around 120 percent,” Kim said.