Let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time, there was this lady with a life similar to many others and a 9-to-5 job in the corporate world.
Years after years a very comfortable routine in a privileged country like Switzerland was about to kill her…
She suddenly decided to walk away from that life and took a plane to nowhere familiar, in search of colors and smiles.
She was looking for a purpose….
Her path took her in a tiny island of the Indian Ocean where she fell in love with the nature, wildlife and ocean.
She discovered the joy of little things such as ‘getting showered’ by coconut water everyday:-)
Her approach was always to live like a local and try everything first hand, included climbing the trees (the smallest ones) to get the coconut all by herself!
Not an easy job!
Being trained to get her coconuts didn’t prevent the discovery of a dreadful truth.
Every single day she was a witness of this frightening scenery:
Hundred and hundred of plastic straws found at the market, at the beach, in the street and ultimately ending in the sea!!There is a pack of straw even at each little shop given for free with drinks, dairy products and anything you don’t need a straw for!
She could not drink anymore the coconut water knowing she would contribute to this catastrophe.
She started doing some research with her lens of biologist.
What did she find out?!
More than 150’000 straws are dumped in Rodrigues per year only in relation to the coconuts consumption. Considering that the coconuts’ market in Port Mathurin started in 2011, the number of straws dumped in the ocean increases to over a million.
This number isn’t even mirroring the gravity of the issue given that it is almost impossible to estimate the straws used in restos, lodges, hotels and boutiques.
Plastic straws take up to 200 years to degrade, but will never be fully off the Earth, as plastics are not biodegradable. To make matters worse, the degrading of plastic releases chemicals that are toxic to wildlife and the environment.
Plastic is everywhere… and I do mean everywhere! This is because we make it in large quantities because it is so useful in just about everything we do.
What happens to waste plastic?
That’s easy, you say: it’s recycled, and that is certainly true in some places for some types of plastic. But other plastics — like straws — are not easily recycled. They end up on garbage tips or worse, just get thrown away, ending up in the soil (on farms), rivers, lakes and, in particular, the world’s oceans.
The sea creatures, like worms, molluscs, crustaceans and fishes at the bottom of the food chain are eating the toxic substances and these toxins then pass up the food chain… and we are at the top of the chain! The estimation of the health damage done by these ‘invisible’ microplastics is not yet clear to scientist; and we will discover it at our expenses soon.
Have you used a plastic straw today?
There’s a good chance you have, be it one given to you at a fast food restaurant, one you asked for in a bar, at Sturbuck, MacDonalds, or even one you took out of a pack at home.
Unless you’ve had your head stuck in the sand, there’s a good chance you’ve heard something negative about straws.
Why should we care what impact these innocuous little things have on the planet?
And why do we actually still need them?
If we continue using plastic at the rate we are, the ocean will contain approximately a ton of plastic for every three tons of fish by 2025, and, by 2050, there will be more plastic by weight in the ocean than there are fish. The effect this has on the ecosystems that thrive in and around the ocean is nothing short of devastating.
Whenever there is an ocean coastline cleanup, plastic straws never fail to make it on the list of one of the most found ocean litter.
Ocean dumping isn’t an imminent threat; it’s an ongoing disaster.
It’s likely that the sea turtle accidentally swallowed the straw, and then had it stuck up its nostril while trying to cough the straw out.
An estimated 71% of seabirds and 30% of turtles have been found with plastics in their stomachs (see pics). When they ingest plastic, marine life has a 50% mortality rate.
If you are able to make it without plastic straws, however, you’ll never find a bad time to cut them out of your life. Chances are, you won’t miss them much once they’re gone — their impact on your life is likely minimal. Their impact on the environment, on your health, and on the lives of animals across the planet, however, is anything but.
Coming back to this lady’s story, she was getting increasingly concerned!
She could never use another straw ever again.
She thought of a solution, that went to test herself .
Took her tools, and went to the jungle! She spent hours chopping bamboos there.
Knowing the biology of the bamboo she started to understand about the features and different characteristics of the this fastest growing plant on the planet, found wild in the island!
She knew that everyone hates it as it is an invasive plant; once it grows, it is real hard to prevent it from invading gardens.
After she had collected different types and sizes bamboo, she went back to her room and started working on her findings.
Lots of attempts to find the best and most efficient approach to make straws out of all branches.
Her balcony was full of bamboos everywhere.
This is not the most charming scene about her!
…sweating in the sun and trying to validate her theory with the local bamboo she had harvested.
She was following her dream and passion worth more that her sleep…
…so many winkless nights spent making this dream coming true:
Every straw was so unique that no two straws were looking the same.
She truly made them with love, despite ending up in the hospital for a tetanus injection due to the cuts on her hands….
And yet, she could not be happier and accomplished to finally being able to drink her loved coconut without causing a damage to the Planet.
She registered the product at the Property Office in Mauritius to protect the idea and the process she had optimised.
What did she do next?
Obviously she wanted to save the island, and with it the entire world!
“IF YOU CAN DREAM IT, YOU CA DO IT”
She went to meet the Commissioner for the environment and discussed this idea with him.
He was so excited about it that asked her to present it at the World environment day on the 5th of June 2018. And so she did.
She made a presentation and talked to kids about plastic pollution during an exhibition lasted a week.
During the speech from the Commissioner in front of all key personalities of the island, including the Chief Commissioner, he was holding her bamboo straw announcing the ban of plastic straw in Rodrigues. He pointed at her in front of everybody saying that a lady has come from very far away to help the island with the pollution issue. OMG, she felt so proud of her and so embarrassed to reply to him with her dreadful French accent in front of everybody!!!!
He talks in Creole during his speech but it is very comprehensive for those understanding French. The main language in the island is in fact Creole, although English and French are most used as the languages of government administration, the courts and business.
She also attended the World Ocean day invited by the commissioner: she felt so privileged to go together with him there. He is a great man, very committed in making Rodrigues an ecological haven. In 2015 he banned the plastic bags, that are still in use in the majority of the world; and this year he is preparing the law to ban the single use plastic for takeaways.
That day was the occasion to inaugurate a centre, Sempa for the safeguard and protection of the Ocean.
How does this story end?
It doesn’t. It is a journey in the making with upcoming challenges.
This is my journey… that you are possibly enabling if you have read me till now.
…That jobless lady that went miles away from her comfort zone, and went to the jungle, and spent days after days working real hard…is ME.
You can join this journey even from a distance by supporting the campaign:
It is a crowdfunding campaign, and if enough of you will donate 1$, 1£, 1€, the money collected will go to a local NGO that will train and employ disables for the production of bamboo straws.
A world in which we could cut out the use of plastic straws would, at first glance, be an ideal world indeed. But the truth is that for some people, it’s just not possible to stop using them altogether. Many disabled people rely on plastic straws (as well as other environmentally problematic materials, such as baby wipes) in order to live their lives. If you can’t hold a cup or glass, a straw isn’t a luxury — it’s a necessity.
Please watch this short CALL FOR ACTION and help us at: #biostraw4planet
It will be my joy to send to those of you that will join the fight against plastic, a bamboo straw as symbol that together we can start the wave of change needed for a healthier future.