Prof designs coconut leaf straws, bags orders from abroad
In his quest to find an eco-friendly alternative to plastic straws, a professor of English of Christ University has developed straws from coconut leaflets and sent the samples to 10 countries.
BENGALURU: In his quest to find an eco-friendly alternative to plastic straws, a professor of English of Christ University has developed straws from coconut leaflets and sent the samples to 10 countries. Now he received orders for 10 million straws to be sent abroad by January end.
In 2018, when Prof Saji Varghese noticed a coconut tree drop its leaves on the college campus, he thought of their use. “Each year a coconut tree naturally loses an average of six leaves. I carried out a study and found out that coconut leaves are just burnt unused in rural areas. Then I decided to come out with an eco- friendly product from it,” Prof Varghese said.
He said coconut leaflets can be rolled into straws and they retain their shape. “From one coconut frond, 600 straws can be made and they can be used for six months. The straws of 3-13mm diameter are priced at Rs 3-10,” he said. The college funded the project and low-tech rolling machines were brought in to make the straws.
Some of the straw samples were sent to countries like Malaysia, the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Spain and Germany where the authorities approved the product and also placed orders for a total 18 million straws, he said. He set up three units in villages of Madurai, Kasargod and Tuticorin and employed women who collect dry fronds and make the straws with machines. “The aim is to employ 500 women in the next three years,” he added.
How straws are made
Straws are four or eight inches in length. The eight-inch products are without the midrib of the leaflet, while four inch ones have the midrib. The dry leaflets are cut out and then rolled to form narrow cylindrical bodies along the length using a water-resistant food grade adhesive. The tube is then dipped in wax to retain the moisture and increase the shelf life.