To solve something as small as straws, sometimes you need to think about the whole system: from manufacturing and transportation to delivery and usage. Inspired by innovations in the material memory and biodegradable space, as well as the idea of just using what you need, the team has conceptualized a scenario with a surprisingly simple solution – just use less.
By reimagining the shape of a straw from cylindrical to flat, and the material from which it is made, we have found a solution that not only uses less plastic overall, but overcomes the challenge that current recycling practices present: small-format plastic regularly slipping through the system.
We've achieved this by devising an alternative dispensation system based on a simple reel/cutter that rolls the flat straw material into a cartridge dispenser. Using material memory, the "flat" straw then pops into a cylindrical shape when extracted from the reel. This not only removes the need for a secondary straw sleeve to protect the straw from germs, but saves a extraordinary amount of air and space when transporting.
Engineering calculations show that the volume of 100 straws would be reduced by approximately 84% when using this new system. Using Cape Tech calculations, an average pallet currently holds 180,000 straws – this new system would enable 1,036,800! The impact of this is not only a solution specific to reducing plastic usage, but also specific to the amount of carbon produced to transport tonnage.
By combining this with the use of biodegradable material, we've also ensured that the environment will not be harmed should the small format of the straws cause them to fall through the recycling system.
In enabling individuals, restauranteurs and retailers to only use what they need – a long straw for a long cup, a short straw for a short cup, or anything in between – our reinvention of the straw as both a concept and a physical object not only uses less space but encourages more consciousness around the consumption of straws and their purpose.