Moved by a Facebook post of a sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nose, Leila Siljeur, 19, felt she had to do something to help reduce plastic pollution. That’s why she decided to design her own brand of edible and environmentally friendly straws.
The second-year Chemical Engineering student at Stellenbosch University (SU) went on to win R50,000 for her invention in a recent Allan Gray Orbis Foundation National Jamboree.
According to Stellenbosch University, the straws are registered under the name Eat Me Straws.
Siljeur’s straws come in three ranges – regular, health and vegan – and don’t become mushy when you put them in a wet substance.
She believes this is an improvement on what has been done thus far with edible straws.
“Even though companies are producing biodegradable straws, some still end up in the ocean posing a threat to marine life,” she says.
Siljeur and her team have been selling small batches of 10 to 20 edible straws informally to SU students since last year. She now plans to produce more straws and sell them to businesses in Stellenbosch and other parts of the country.
According to Siljeur, the money she won will come in handy as they look to expand, adding that they’re partnering with SU’s Consulting Society and Accenture in Cape Town.