Parklands College Grade 10 Shreya Singh has investigated the possibility of making drinking straws from kelp instead of paper.
The project won a gold medal at the Cape Town Expo for Young Scientists.
The main problem with paper straws is that they don’t last long, says Shreya.
“Some straws end up falling apart and semi-disintegrating into the drink after only a couple of minutes. They are also made of paper and therefore obviously contribute to the world’s growing deforestation problem. While we can always grow more trees, it takes longer for the trees to grow than it takes for us to cut them down, she said.
She tested kelp as an alternative because it grows quickly and is readily available.
“The immediate goals were to improve on what I considered to be the faults in the variety of straws currently available. Structural integrity and no taste transfer to common types of drinks served at restaurants and other food outlets were my main focus. Kelp, being an organic material, had to be processed to sterilise it and also to make it easier to mould.”
She tweaked her first few prototypes until she produced one that outlasted and outperformed the paper alternative.