A nature-loving entrepreneur in Armenia has found a niche selling an elegant alternative to plastic straws.
1This is Gevorg Gasparian, an IT worker who also leads hiking tours around his hometown of Kapan in the south of Armenia.
2In May, as reported by JAMnews, the 33-year-old outdoorsman hit upon the idea to harvest some of the wild bamboo stalks he usually brushes past during his forest adventures…
3…and fashion them into a biodegradable alternative to plastic straws.
4The environmental impact of plastic straws is up for debate. Some groups claim the bendy drinking devices are one of “the top contributorsto marine pollution,” while others say straws make up just 1 percent of the ocean’s plastic waste. Whatever the truth, straws are now a lightning rod for the issue of plastic waste. American coffee giant Starbucks has vowed to eliminate plastic straws in all of its stores worldwide by 2020.
5But with paper straws prone to sogginess, and metal straws tricky to clean (and potentially deadly), Gasparian believes bamboo is the best replacement for plastic.
6And many Armenians agree. This stall in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, is advertising Gasparian’s green alternative to straws. At just 11 U.S. cents each, he has already fielded inquiries from Yerevan’s thriving café industry.
7Gasparian says he sometimes ventures up to 20 kilometers through the forest, hunting for the right bamboo. One plant is enough for around five straws. After harvesting, slicing, and cleaning the tubes, the final step is to bake them for around 15 minutes to harden the fibers.
8A Yerevan local slurps fresh juice through a bamboo straw. Gasparian told RFE/RL that he’s selling up to 100 straws per week. But with the buzz they are beginning to create on social media, he said he is looking into planting his own bamboo to ensure a regular supply.
9Although other suppliers of bamboo straws can be found online, Gasparian appears to be the only person harvesting Armenian bamboo for the Armenian market. The entrepreneur says that if his little “green revolution” takes off, he could “expand the business, create jobs, make a brand. I’m an optimist.”