100% biodegradable bamboo straws locally made in Mozambique:
It is a documented fact that straws are one item of plastic that is not recycled. For some reason straws are not perceived as plastic. They are also synonymous with cocktails and beaches and holidays. Unfortunately there is no "away" with plastic.
Straws blow into the sea; they end up in turtles noses. They break down into micro plastics very easily and end up ingested by marine life and ultimately inside us.
However it is rather pleasant to sip through a straw, especially a cocktail.... so what are the alternatives? There are metal straws; quite clinical and reminiscent of visits to a hospital. Glass straws; that make me nervous in public places and especially around children. Bamboo straws; biodegradable but pricey. Then there are our Eco Straws ... affordable, durable, sustainable and biodegradable.
We started this project last September, 2017, and from humble beginnings we were running before we had learnt to walk. We have been refining processes and equipment aiming to be internationally competitive. We have just recently rented a small building and have ordered specialized tables to speed up the finishing process. We are aiming to produce 1000 straws per day.
At present there are 5 gentlemen involved in the finishing of the straws. This process once mechanised could be handled by two to three people. All the people involved in the finishing are currently employed in my Cafe, they are on the official minimum wage and I pay extra to the guys that work with the straws.
On the ground we have ladies in two villages, 6 ladies in one village and 5 in another. We are paying 1.5 metical per straw. We probably need another village of 5 or 6 people to accomplish the 1000 per day target.
Additionally we support 4 men who harvest the grass. Presently one bundle of grass is 200 Metical and we are able to get around 500 – 700 Straws from that one bundle. There is a lot of wastage at this stage.
I have spent very little on new equipment, and recycled old disused equipment that people had given me. At present we have one tabletop oven for washing and drying. One hand held multi tool, one jig saw for cutting and sanding is done by hand.
I have commissioned a table for the new saw I bought which would speed up the process enormously and give a more uniform look to the straws. Standard lengths and straight cuts.
I would like to replace the pot with an industrial Bain Marie, the small oven with a salamander oven. A new one is very expensive but I am sure I could find a second hand one.
Additionally a sanding machine would be essential and a compressor to replace the compressed air in cylinders that I have been borrowing from the dive centre where my Cafe is situated.
Unfortunately the cost of registering a company has more than doubled in the last year. I was totally shocked at the new prices. However I need to register a company, with myself as a 51% shareholder, in order to get everyone onto insurance and workmans compensation in case of accidents.
We have people worldwide wanting to be agents just waiting for us to be able to export. I believe in this product can only go from strength to strength, we have a dedicated team that are fully committed to growing the company together.
As we grow as a company we will need more and more informal workers to support the factory. There are many people in the surrounding villages who would welcome the extra income as part time workers.