What Type of Reusable Straw Are You?
Are you more of a bamboo straw person, prefer the look an feel of a plastic straw with an eco-friendly twist or want a straw that you can snack on? Netherlands-based Sipster Straws has you covered. After having discovered their passion for sustainability while living in Vietnam, the Sipster team has developed a series of environmentally friendly straw options to ensure that there is an option for every type of consumer. In this week's blog, we'll continue our interview series by asking Sipster Straws about how they came to be, what unique straw offerings that have and their take on sustainability in the tourism industry!
How was Sipster Straws created?
The story of Sipster started one year ago. By that time the three co-founders of Sipster, Quirien, Rogier and Resy, were living and working in Vietnam. We were inspired when we received a drink with a natural bamboo straw at a restaurant in the capitol Hanoi and thought ‘this is a pretty cool and reusable alternative for plastic straws’. When we learned that a plastic straw takes 200 years to degrade whereas we often only use it for around 5 minutes, we realised it was time to take action. We started our journey by talking to restaurant owners and people in our network, which made us realise that it is actually pretty difficult to find a real sustainable replacement for plastic straws through normal market channels. But also that it is quite difficult to find correct information, because there are quite some terms and products that are misleading consumers, like the term biodegradable and products like PLA. That’s why we decided to turn Sipster into a one-stop-shop where everyone who wants to stop using plastic straws can find a suitable alternative and the right information. We focus on the problem, not just a product.
What inspired its idea?
I think this is captured in the answer above:)
Let’s discuss your products, can you explain what plastic straw alternatives you offer?
At Sipster you can find three different types of sustainable alternatives for plastic straws: edible straws, biodegradable straws and reusable straws. The edible straws become a candy after its use and are available in tastes like lime, lemon, strawberry and ginger. If you prefer to reuse your straws, you can choose between straws made out of metal and bamboo. We are currently also looking into glass straws as a reusable alternative for plastic. Our biodegradable straws are all single-use, and currently we offer paper straws and Biorix straws, which are designed to degrade within 3-6 months in your own compost bin.
What is so unique about your biodegradable straw compared to others on the market?
Biodegradable is quite a misleading term. When an object is biodegradable it only means that it is capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms, however, it doesn’t say anything about the time it takes to decompose. There are for example PLA or bioplastic straws on the market, which are bio-based and biodegradable. However, if these straws end up in our environment they almost take the same time to degrade as normal plastic straws (200 years). Therefore, PLA or bioplastic straws are not a solution to tackle plastic waste and avoid pollution of our oceans and environment. At Sipster we therefore decided to not offer PLA or bioplastic straws. At Sipster we only offer biodegradable straws that can be decomposed in nature or in your home compost within 6 months.
In addition, most paper straws available on the market have a plastic lining, which makes them difficult to decompose. Sipster paper straws are 100% plastic free, but stay firm in your drink while using them.
What is the biggest challenge in getting companies to adopt your sustainable alternatives?
I think the biggest challenge is to compete with the low price of plastic straws.Plastic is so cheap, that it is impossible to provide an alternative for the same price. We however start the conversation with companies on how they are using straws. With one metal reusable straw for example, you can replace hundreds of plastic straws, making it even cheaper than using plastic. Another change in behaviour could be to only offer sustainable straws when customers ask for it. This would result in using far less straws than when they are automatically handed out to everyone. These changes in perceptions and behaviour take a long time, but with Sipster we continuously keep the conversation going to inspire as many companies and people to be the change and reduce their plastic footprint.
What is the next step for your company? Do you plan on expanding to any new markets since there is such a strong demand now for alternatives to single-use plastics?
We envision to offer Sipster straws through the normal market channels, to ensure that real sustainable straws are easily available for anyone who wants to stop using plastic straws. We are for example exploring to sell our straws through bar supply companies and in retail packages for supermarkets.
What does sustainable tourism mean to you?
As we have all lived in Vietnam and travelled a lot throughout the world, we have seen the negative impact of the tourism sector on our environment with our own eyes. Especially while travelling, people use a lot of single-use plastic, from straws in their drinks on the beach to water bottles and plastic bags. It is important that people realise the impact of their behaviour and choices while travelling and for tourism companies to have a realistic strategy to keep their footprint low. With Sipster we hope to contribute to a more sustainable tourism sector by inspiring tourism companies and tourists to stop using plastic straws and switch to a sustainable alternative.
What’s your big vision for Sipster?
Sipster is the first one-stop-shop for sustainable straws in the Netherlands and in the first year we have already prevented 489.020 plastic straws from ending up in our environment. Our big vision for Sipster is that everyone who wants to stop using plastic straws can find a real sustainable alternative through the normal market channels so that we can all live in a world free of plastic straws.