Stellenbosch University student Leila Siljeur, 19, awarded R50K for edible straw
Leila Siljeur, 19, a chemical engineering student at Stellenbosch University (SU), was inspired after seeing a Facebook post of a sea turtle with a plastic fork stuck in its nose and felt she should play her part in reducing plastic pollution.
She decided to design her own brand of edible and environmentally friendly straws and won R50000 for her invention in a recent Allan Gray Orbis Foundation National Jamboree.
Her creation was registered under the name Eat Me Straws. The straws come in three styles: regular, health and vegan. What’s more, they don’t get mushy when you put them in a wet substance.
“Even though companies are producing biodegradable straws, some still end up in the ocean, posing a threat to marine life,” said Siljeur.
She said when she started designing the straws, she played around with different binding, emulsifying and deglazing agents because she didn’t want sticky straws that could affect the taste of the customer’s drink. She points out that the texture of the straws is a mixture between liquorice and dried fruit.
“The straws can be coloured and flavoured as per customer specifications. We use different bases for the three ranges - gelatine for regular straws, plants for vegan straws and fruit for the health variety,” she said.
Siljeur says she and her team had been selling small batches of 10 to 20 edible straws informally to SU students since last year. The feedback from the students who had bought the straws was positive, she said. “They love the straws.”
She plans to produce more straws and sell them to businesses in Stellenbosch and other parts of the country.
Siljeur said: “We want to sell a massive batch to a variety of businesses. Ideally, we would like to roll out in fast food chains like KFC, McDonald’s and even health shops.
“We would like to sell them to these types of stores so that they can distribute them. Then it doesn’t come directly out of the consumer’s pocket.”
Siljeur says the money she won would come in handy as they looked to expand, adding that they were partnering with SU’s Consulting Society and Accenture in Cape Town.