Teen’s ed­i­ble straws help­ing to save planet

● Teen’s idea for tasty ed­i­ble op­tion to beat plas­tic scourge pays off with prize

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - Front Page - Naz­iziphiwo Buso bu­[email protected]­soblack­star.co.za

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.

EU­GENE COET­ZEE Pho­to­graph:

ONTO GOOD THING: Leila Sil­jeur, 19, with the tro­phy she won for her ‘Eat-Me’ straw (in­set) busi­ness idea

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