Sedge grass straws are making a big come back in Uganda. A local company, ‘‘Our Roots’‘ has discovered it is the perfect natural replacement for plastic drinking straws.
The natural straw manufacturer was founded in March this year with just $55. It has 3 full-time employees and 10 others who work part-time. They go into the wild in search for sedge grass and bring them to life.
“These straws, long ago our ancestors used them for drinking the local brews, called Malwa in Luganda, and these straws, they used to get them from their gardens and other places. So we saw that it could be a great opportunity for us to fight single use plastic straws with the plant based ones”, Co-founder of Our Roots, Akram Ssemambo said.
But I would absolutely use them at home, because I feel like you can clean them better and, I mean, it's natural
Ssemambo has used the money he’s made since then to expand the business. It now boasts of eight regular clients.
“We use three steps of sanitizing our straws. So we wash them and then boil into hot water. We bring them for sun drying, and then after sun drying, we take them into a microwave, and then we pack so they are ready to use”, he said.
Ssemambo charges about 25 cents per straw and gives discounts for bulk purchases. A Kampala-based restaurant, Yujo Izakaya is first to stock the natural straws.
“It’s been received very well. Surprisingly, or unsurprisingly, the customers have enjoyed that each piece has its own style and they understand that they are making their own effort as well to participate in this effort that growing number of people are trying to make”, Managing Director of Yujo Izakaya restaurant, Hanif Rehemtulla said.
Sherry Sakwa is delighted about the natural straw.
‘‘This is the first time I’m seeing it. Before I’ve used the paper straws and the plastic that are very common everywhere. But I would absolutely use them at home, because I feel like you can clean them better and, I mean, it’s natural”, the customer said.
Sedge grass straws decompose in three weeks while plastic ones are estimated to decompose in 200 years.
The straws can be washed and re-used. The company hopes to see plastic straw use in Uganda cut by 45 percent over the next five years.
‘‘Our Roots’‘ also wants to teach people how to make the straws at home for themselves.