TAIPEI, TAIWAN - Media OutReach
- 27 October 2020 - Taiwan not only invented bubble tea
that has created a global phenomenon, one of the country's vibrant startup
firms has also come up with eco versions of straws that allow you sip through
and enjoy chewy tapioca balls, or oversized 'bubbles', in beverages. Among many
green solutions providers, Taiwan
Plants Fiber Tech Alliance(PFTA) makes plastic-free, bio-degradable straws
and cutlery out of sugarcanes and other agricultural waste. It now aims to
expand the green product to the US.
focuses on circular application of agricultural materials and natural plant
fiber, such as sugarcane fiber straw, fulfilling the concept of zero waste.
According to the World Bank, the world
produced 242 million tons of plastic waste in 2016, 57 million tons originated
from Asia Pacific, 45 million tons from Europe and Central Asia, and 35 million
tons from North America, and that there will be more plastic in the oceans than
fish in 2050 if no action is taken.
In addition, recycling systems around the
world are breaking down due to Covid-19 budget strains. Recycling is not
enough; a more creative solution is replacing plastic. As Taiwan's bubble tea
has taken the world by storm in recent years, its indispensable partner, the
straw, is becoming eco-friendly and cool.
PFTA chose sugarcane and plant fibers as
raw materials to make one-time or reusable cutlery. Its sugarcane straw is
nicknamed 'savior for bubble tea lovers' since Taiwan, home of bubble tea,
banned the use of plastic straws at the end of 2019. But long before that,
PFTA's sugarcane straw was already welcomed by the Canadian market.
" In 2016, I posted our sugarcane straw on social media to celebrate
the success of its commercialization after years of R&D efforts. An
interested party from Canada immediately contacted me. He ordered two
containers right away," said James Chen, founder and CEO of PFTA. Even if sugarcane
straws are twice as expensive as plastic ones, orders from Canada continued to
increase. Now this very first customer of PFTA has become its business partner
in Canada and has established production lines in Edmonton.
"Sugarcane is grown in abundance in Taiwan. In the Japanese
colonial age, sugarcane was a pillar of local economy. Until today, many
elderly in Taiwan still share the childhood memories of chewing sugarcanes for
fun. Therefore, we manufacture sugarcane straws when there are straws made from
cornstarch, paper, bamboo or stainless steel." Chen said.
He said that another reason he chose to use
sugarcane is to help reduce agricultural waste. Taiwan is "the kingdom of
fruits and vegetables". Abundant agricultural produce means abundant waste. Peels
of pineapples, bananas, papayas, or even coffee grounds can be a burden to the
environment since they produce methane in the compost or landfills and increase
CO2 emission when incinerated.
ASEAN governments also welcome sugarcane
straws as bubble tea is getting more popular in their countries. Thailand is
the first to adopt PFTA's sugarcane straws. Malaysia banned the use of plastic
straws in 2019, Bali and Jakarta of Indonesia banned them in 2020. Striving for
a greener future and enforcing its marketing efforts, PFTA approached Green
Trade Project Office (GTPO) under Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs for
overseas promotional support.
Sugarcane straw is just one of PFTA's many
plastic-free products. The company core technology is in its green materials:
PFP (Plant Fiber Polymer) No.1 for making reusable products such as plates,
bowls, toys, and building materials; and PFP No.2 for single use straws,
spoons, and forks.
Chen said that compared with many other
countries, the US is a late-comer in adopting green, biodegradable sugarcane
straws. This means great market potentials for PFTA. "we are dedicated to
establishing a zero-plastic future and circular economy. It's a long, hard
journey but we have confidence because we've seen more and more people
answering our call."