It started when An Dang, a 26-year-old living in Hanoi, watched a plastic straw being pulled out from the bleeding nose of a sea turtle in Costa Rica. The Youtube video was an instant hit and the whole experience gave An a wake-up call.
An Dang. “I felt the pain as if it was my own nose,” he recalled. “Then I realized that straws are not as harmless as they look. They are ubiquitous where I live, and they are so small that nobody notices them, no matter how many they use every day, even my environmentally-spirited friends.”
In July, An announced on the Facebook page for his online vegetarian food store that he was going to start selling stainless steel straws for anyone interested. He also knocked on the doors of restaurants and cafés in Hanoi, asking them to stop using plastic straws and replace them with the steel alternative. Four have joined his cause so far.
An ad of stainless steel straw on An’s Facebook page. “Coming soon,” it reads, “A straw that does not hurt the environment.”
“The stainless steel straws last much longer than the bamboo ones, which have to be thrown away after three or four months,” An explained. “The single-use plastic-lined paper ones produce just as much trash as plastic straws, and they are 10 times more expensive.”
By the time we chatted on the phone, An was waiting for his second shipment of stainless steel straws to arrive in Vietnam.
“People have been messaging me on Facebook to order the straws for themselves and their friends,” An said. “Some restaurants and cafés in Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City have also shown an interest in the idea and have ordered a few dozen to pilot them.”
It’s not the perfect solution for the environment, I know,” he added. “But at least it helps reduce the amount of plastic waste we throw away every day.”
From his visits to cafés and kitchens, An estimated they throw out from 30 to 80 plastic straws per day.