The New Kid On The Plastic Alternatives Block: Barley Straws

Marine pollution is a prevalent problem in society. Its harmful effects caused by plastic waste have urged many companies in the food & beverage industry to go plastic-free.

One evident change today is the growing switch from plastic straws to recyclable or reusable materials such as paper and metal. Companies such as McDonald’s and Starbucks, which have made an effort to swap plastic straws to recyclable materials, reflect this sensation.

To date, paper straws have proven to be an excellent and convenient alternative to plastic straws. However, it does have its downsides due to the nature of the material’s durability and longevity. Over time, paper straws turn soggy and lose their shapes. They are also accompanied by the unpleasant lingering smell and taste of adhesive glue.

This is where barley straws come in. Made of barley, these straws are water-resistant and functions just as well as a plastic straw. The company responsible for producing this environmentally friendly product is Fukui Barley Club from Fukui prefecture.

Fukui is a prefecture in Japan known for its barley. Since 1975, the prefecture was introduced to crop diversification, leading to the cultivation of their local specialty, Rokujo barley. It is recorded that up till 2018, Fukui prefecture was the leading harvester of Rokujo barley, achieving an annual yield of 105,000 tons.

Other than barley, Fukui Barley Club also sells a variety of products such as barley tea and barley rice. As an e-commerce platform, their primary focus lies in their online shop where their products are sold.

In conjunction with the release of their barley straws, the company is offering family and restaurant friendly deals such as 300 yen for 10 straws for the former, and 7,500 yen for 250 straws for the latter.

Since its release in July this year, the barley straws have been well received, especially by food establishments of varying scales, successfully selling over 30,000 straws by the end of July 2019.

Barley straws, however, have their disadvantages as well. The production of barley straws is a time and labor-intensive process. This restricts the company’s ability for mass production to meet the demand of large corporations. At the moment, Fukui Barley Club does not accept orders of large volumes.

This summer, Fukui Barley Club has produced a total of 50,000 straws. They hope to mechanize the production process by next year to expand the potential of their product.

(This interview was originally published on Zenbird Media.)

[Reference Website] Omugi mom’s wheat straw

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