September 23, 2019
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Mexicans make drinking straws from reeds to curb use of plastic

Jose de Jesus Cortes

Santa Cruz Papalutla, Mexico, Sep 13 (EFE).- Eager to protect the environment, artisans in this town in the southern state of Oaxaca are making drinking straws from river reed as a growing number of Mexican jurisdictions crack down on single-use plastic.

At the Chika Tiki workshop in Santa Cruz Papalutla, 35 km (22 mi) from Oaxaca city, eight people skilled in the traditional craft of making items such as baskets, flutes and frames from the tall river reed known here as carrizo are using those skills to extract, clean and shape the reed's natural tubing into drinking straws.

Demand for the natural straws is taking off, the company's founder says.

"They have sold in Merida, in Mexico DF (Mexico City), and in other states," entrepreneur and artist Aline Hunziker tells Efe. "They have been requested from all over Mexico. Orders have been placed and people have called to ask how it's done to do the same themselves in other places."

Chika Tiki, in line with its commitment to environmental protection, is trying to grow responsibly. The workers are careful to harvest the carrizo gradually, so as not to create zones denuded of vegetation.

The plant is abundant in the central valleys of Oaxaca and quick to regenerate during the rainy season.

"Carrizo are reborn the moment you cut them. So we are not damaging the planet by cutting them," Donaciano Sanchez Lopez told Efe while harvesting reed.

"Plastic straws take longer to break down, and this (carrizo) doesn't, because it's like firewood, it breaks down rapidly," he said.

The firm has an environmental impact study under way with the aim of scheduling the harvests for the rainy season.

Besides the eight people in the workshop, Chika Tiki is a source of extra money for artisans who work from their homes in Papalutla.

"It's well-paid, it's very well-paid. I don't have to leave the house to earn an additional income for my family," craftswoman Asuncion Martinez Cruz said.

The team can produce up to 500 straws a day and Chika Tiki sells them for 5 pesos (25 cents) each, though customers who order more than 1,000 units at one time get a discount.

Washable carrizo straws are meant to be used repeatedly and can last as long as 90 days.

La Selva, a bar in Oaxaca city, has replaced all of its plastic straws with ones made from carrizo.

"People react very well. In fact, I think that there has been a lot of awareness on the part of the entire public regarding ecology and the straws," server Gerardo Vargas Santiago tells Efe.

"It's a biodegradable option that doesn't pollute and which looks very good in cocktail," he says. EFE jjc/dr

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