Rising popularity of rice straws

Beverage stall owner Soon Bee Kee showing the various sizes and colours of rice straws that she now offers at her stall in the food court on Penang Hill. — Photos: K.T. GOH/The Star

BIODEGRADABLE rice straws are gaining popularity among diners at the food court in Penang Hill which has introduced the initiative to promote the reduction of plastic straws.

Engineers Sem Lian Quan, 34, and Tiffany Lee, 28, who were seen enjoying drinks at the food court recently, said they were happy using the rice straws.

“We seldom go out for drinks, so the 20sen charged for a straw does not seem much, especially since it is good for the environment.

“This is better than the metal straw as it is biodegradable and edible as well.

“Paper straws do not last and become soft quickly, ” said Sem.

Lee described the straw as being tasteless and thick unlike paper straws.

The rice straws can last up to two hours in a cold beverage and up to one and a half hours in a hot drink.

Customers looking at the display promoting the use of rice straws at the food court on Penang Hill.Customers looking at the display promoting the use of rice straws at the food court on Penang Hill.

Housewife Ng Lin Thye, 54, who hikes up Penang Hill weekly, encouraged the use of rice straws as she was fascinated by how they were made.

“This is interesting and could make a huge difference in the long run.

“It can be thrown on the grass and offered as bird feed after use.

“I do not think it is a big deal to spend 20sen as it contributes to saving the environment, ” she said.

She usually indulges in a shake after her hike and she feels better now knowing that she has an option instead of using plastic straw.

Drinks stall owner Soon Bee Kee said she was happy to offer rice straws with her drinks.

“They are convenient and come in various sizes and colours for bubble teas, regular drinks and even fruit shakes.

“Plastic is bad for the environment and we should look for other options, hopefully soon plastic cups will also be replaced, ” she said.

Phee (in white) checking out one of the desserts and drinks stall  supporting the rice straw initiative at the Penang Hill food court.Phee (in white) checking out one of the desserts and drinks stall supporting the rice straw initiative at the Penang Hill food court.

Penang Hill Corporation general manager Datuk Cheok Lay Leng said the biodegradable straws were introduced as part of the corporation’s effort to raise green practices awareness.

“We want to promote environmentally friendly operations and not leave behind plastic waste.

“We hope the hikers who come up to grab a drink support the initiative and do not leave any plastic behind.

“With the use of better technology we hope to soon replace plastic cups with biodegradable material, ” he said.

State welfare and environment committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said plastic waste has been an imminent global issue and more nations are trying to stop its vast consumption, especially single-use plastics.

“It is estimated that 79% of plastic waste now sits in landfills, dumps or in the environment and only about 9% has been recycled globally.

“Malaysians use up a whopping amount of about 31 million plastic straws every day.

“Over the years, the state government has rolled out several initiatives to encourage people to opt for environmentally-friendly alternatives, ” he said.

Phee lauded the stalls at the hill which agreed to the introduction of the straws.

“They are affordable and will contribute to solving plastic waste pollution.

“It is suitable to be reprocessed into animal feed and fertiliser and will decompose completely in 90 days, ” he said.

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rice straws , food court , Penang Hill


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