|The straws made from vegetables and fruits have earned a five-star certification from the One Commune – One Product (OCOP) Grading Council of Hà Nội . — Photo kinhtedothi.vn|
HÀ NỘI — With knowledge and experience gained from a decade working in Korea, a Hanoian man started a business producing straws made from vegetables and fruits.
Lê Văn Tám’s product even earned a five-star review from the One Commune – One Product (OCOP) Grading Council of Hà Nội, the highest possible certification.
Tám, who works with the Red River Agricultural Service Co-operative, learned about organic farming while working overseas.
“During a trip with my family, I saw a lot of plastic waste, particularly plastic straws on the beach,” he said.
“Since then, I thought of making straws with vegetables and fruits.”
Returning to Việt Nam, Tám rented land to grow organic vegetables and then, use the vegetables to make straws that are not only used to drink water but also nutritious food.
Tám uses potatoes to make straws and vegetables to colour them.
“The very first veggie straws that I made were very thick, not evenly rounded or the body was curved and I found it difficult to adjust,” he said.
On an area of about 1,500 sq.m, Tám and other members of the co-operative developed six net houses to grow vegetables and tubers in an organic way.
Besides this main source of vegetable supply, the co-operative also cooperates with other farmers in Đông Anh district and surrounding areas to purchase more vegetables for straw production.
Having knowledge of technological processes and equipment, as well as experience in producing various kinds of vermicelli and noodle soup from vegetables, Tám’s co-operative conducted hundreds of trials to make the straws.
“In the middle of 2019, we spent more than 90 days staying at the factory, mixing materials, changing machines to find the right formula,” he said, adding that they had to throw away 30 tonnes of material due to faulty testing.
To produce a standard straw, cooperative members have to go through many stages of production, each with its own requirements. The production process does not use any preservatives.
Unlike plastic straws, vegetable and fruit straws will become soft after about 30 minutes of being plugged into warm water but still retain the structure and hardness enough to be used for the next ten hours. The product only dissolves when it is continuously soaked in water after more than a day.
Each straw is used once, has a shelf life of up to 18 months from the date of manufacture, and is easily degradable, so it is not harmful to the environment.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Red River Agricultural Service Cooperative produced about 50,000 straws daily. The products are supplied to many restaurants, hotels, resorts, and distributed in the system of domestic and foreign supermarkets such as Korea and Germany.
When participating in the Hà Nội’s One Commune One Product (OCOP) Programme, the environmentally-friendly straws were highly evaluated and classified by the City People's Committee.
It is also one of the first 13 potential five-star OCOP products in Hà Nội, currently waiting for evaluation and star rating by the Central OCOP Council.
According to Nguyễn Văn Chí, Deputy Chief of the Standing Office of the Hà Nội New Rural Construction Coordination Office, these straws are one of the city's most unique OCOP products.
“The city encourages the development of products from natural and environmentally friendly materials,” Chí said.
“Developing green, safe and sustainable products is also the orientation for the OCOP Programme in the future.”
According to Nguyễn Văn Thiền, head of the Economic Office of Đông Anh District, businesses and cooperatives in the district were constantly trying to find and apply science, technology and high technology to production and create quality OCOP products.
On average, the value of OCOP products increases by 15- 25 per cent after investment. — VNS