Minister of Environment Say Samal praised a Cambodian enterprise that makes straws from rice and vegetable matter rather than plastic, which he said is overused around the world.
“We did it! We made water straws from rice flour. We can stop using plastic straws now,” he said in a recent social media post, along with some photos of the colourful straws.
The straws are available in many different colours and are made from natural substances such as rice, corn, potatoes and pandan leaves, according to Tith Sokhom, the owner of the enterprise, TK&D Manufacturing.
Sokhom, 40, told The Post: “I began to think about the production of straws from cereals to help reduce the amount of plastic used in Cambodia, and to create employment for young people.”
The enterprise was inaugurated last September, and is the first of its kind in the Kingdom.
After seeing environmentally friendly products being produced in other countries, the entrepreneur began to wonder if Cambodia could do something to reduce its use of plastic. After thinking about it for some time, she and her husband launched their business.
TK & D produces straws made from rice flour, which is mixed with other products using imported machinery.
“We produce a wide variety of products, and each has a slightly different taste, depending on the source material,” said Sokhom
As a supporter of the products, Chien Sotheara tries to use them as often as possible.
“They are very efficient and last for long enough to drink a large drink,” Sotheara, who works for the General Department of Taxation, told The Post.
“It both reduces the use of plastics and promotes the use of local raw materials, which are both admirable goals,” he said.
Sotheara said that after drinking water with the straw, he usually ate it. They are as crisp as a wafer cake, and taste delicious.
Although the straws are made from rice flour, you can use them without worrying that they will dissolve.
“With cold drinks, they last a long time. After an hour, they become soft, like pasta. They last nearly as long with hot drinks,” said Sokhom.
She said that after finish your drink you can eat the straw. If you don’t want to do that, you can throw it away and it will break down into dust very quickly.
She explained that rice flour is the main ingredient in the manufacture of the straws. It is blended with other products to obtain different colours. The colours are not achieved with chemicals, but with agricultural products.
“If you want green, the rice flour is mixed with pandan leaves. If you want yellow, it’s mixed with mango powder. All of the ingredients are natural,” she said.
After the paste is mixed, a machine squeezes it into long straws and then cuts them to length.
“Currently, we create many flavours and colours, using corn, pandan leaves, carrots and potatoes. We are in the process of devising new flavours,” said Sokhom.
The owner of the enterprise, which employs more than 100 villagers in Krakor district, Pursat province, said that TK&D can produce more than 100 boxes of straws per day. The company is gradually expanding into new markets, including Makro Supermarkets and Sna Dai Me Market.
“The Ministry of environment would like to commend the companies that produce paper cups and straws made from natural materials. These kinds of “bio-plastic” products are easily soluble and do not harm the environment. The use of these items is a win-win for consumers,” said Neth Pheaktra, spokesman for the ministry.
He said that people are now more aware of the environmental costs of using plastic products and have changed their behaviour. Many people have turned to the use of environmentally friendly bags and baskets and reusable water bottles. Many restaurants have implemented zero-plastic principles, as have some schools.
“We urge people to change their attitudes, reduce their consumption of plastics and choose natural products. For example, disposable products like plastic straws should be replaced by ones made of paper, bamboo or lemongrass,” he said.
Sokhom acknowledged that her business did not yet have a large share of the market, as it only began trading at the beginning of 2022.
These are not the first environmentally friendly straws to be sold in Cambodia, but the others are all imported.
Because the demand for these kinds of products is not yet as high as it should be, the market is not yet large, meaning low supply volumes, which makes finding these products seem difficult.
TK&D rice, potatoe, corn or carrot straws are priced at just 10,000 riel per box of 50 straws
Sokhon was pleased to have been noticed by the environment minister, saying that it was very encouraging to know he had seen them.
“I was very happy to see the minister helping to promote Cambodian products like that. He even introduced the Japanese ambassador to our non-plastic products,” she said.