Teen’s edible straws helping to save planet
● Teen’s idea for tasty edible option to beat plastic scourge pays off with prize
Tired of sloppy paper straws and the baneful plastic variety, a young woman from Nelson Mandela Bay has developed her own edible and environmentally friendly “Eat-Me straws”.
Leila Siljeur, 19, came up with the idea to develop these straws in 2018 and now they have earned her a R50,000 prize at the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation National Jamboree.
Siljeur won the prize last week and the money is intended to help her develop the product.
The former Gelvandale Park Primary and Collegiate Girls’ High School pupil says the impact of single-use plastic on the environment, especially on beaches, moved her to design a product that could disappear like sweets.
“Single-use plastics, including straws, have had devastating effects on ecosystems and wildlife,” she said.
“Our beaches are [filled] with plastic and it’s estimated there will be more plastics than fish in the ocean by 2050.
“Last year I came up with the design of a straw that one eats like a gummy sweet or dried fruit but that can withstand being in a wet substance.”
Weekend Post spoke to Siljeur, who leads a team of eight people, all in charge of different aspects of the production of the straws.
Eat-Me currently has three ranges of straws – regular, health and vegan.
Siljeur says customers can specify colours and taste.
“If a customer wants an alcohol infusion straw, that can be done.
“One of our favourites is our red wine-infused straws, and many trendy bars like our kiwilime and gin-infused straws for their gin and tonics.
“Our strawberry and blueberry are also favourites.”
For the chemical engineering student at the University of Stellenbosch, being part of the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation National Jamboree and winning the prize has been life-changing. The objective of the event is to bring entrepreneurship into action, to enable participants to continuously create value and effect change within their spaces.
“This year they introduced a new category which allowed fellows within the organisation to pitch their business ventures to investors and a R50,000 prize which is an investment into the business venture.”
Asked how she felt about the investment Siljeur said her informal business would now boom into a professional one. “At the moment we are selling them in very small batches and per the customer specifications,” she said.
“It’s very informal, but the investment will take the business to the next level.
“This financial injection also means that we can increase our production capacities.
“We have a three-phase plan that we have set up,” she said. “The first phase was securing the funding.” According to Siljeur, EatMe straws should be trading formally by March 2020.
ONTO GOOD THING: Leila Siljeur, 19, with the trophy she won for her ‘Eat-Me’ straw (inset) business idea