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Bamboo straw: the way to go

WHO would have thought that a service stint at the 4th Sabah Youth Day (SYD-4) in Tawau would turn out to be a stepping stone for Borneo Bamboo Straw, an enterprise that says no to plastic straw?  It is one of those surprises in life!

Ester Ermerlissa Ngoai, or better known as Lissa Johannes among her peers, is a youth from St Thomas Becket Kelampun, under the care of St Peter Bundu, Kuala Penyu.

Lissa, 31, works as a teacher at SK Lambidan Menumbok, which runs a program called SERASI, or Sekolah Rakan Alam Sekitar (Environmental Friendly School) created by the Sabah Environmental Department to bring awareness to the care of our environment.

How did the idea of the bamboo straw come about?

In June 2016, Lissa was assigned to serve at the SYD-4 as a sub-MOT (Main Organizing Team) for the Gallery Walk at one of the stations called “Hero Ecology”. The task, which involved preparing materials, visiting the landfill site in Kayu Madang, conducting research and interviews with members of society concerning environment was an eye-opener for her.

The service stint opened her eyes to see creation with the eyes of faith, which spurred her on to make it her own personal mission.

While production and usage of plastic is widespread, accumulating our landfills and becoming a source of pollution to the environment, the awareness to combat this ugly threat is on the rise globally.

Single-use plastic is often associated with plastic pollution crisis in which about 40% of plastic production is aimed for packaging, and which inadvertently contributes to the highest waste production (Source: Science Advances, 2017).

Depending on region, this category involves all stages of consumers, from manufacturers to suppliers and end users, such as domestic homes.

While global awareness on this issue has triggered efforts to combat this giant menace, mostly aimed at single-use plastic, it has at the same time suggested alternatives that are durable and re-usable.

Meanwhile, in our own backyard, Lissa has responded to the single-use plastic crisis by producing bamboo straws as an alternative to plastic straws.

“I spotted a video in social media posted by Dane Kovacs, popularly known as ‘Orang Putih Kita’, who highlighted on a restaurant that embarked on using bamboo straws,” recalled Lissa.

“It got me thinking, and I began to ask the school canteen workers, who belonged to a local community in Menumbok, whether their village possessed a source of bamboo from which straws could be produced,” she added.

To her surprise, she received a positive response, “not only from our canteen workers, but also from the school security guard, who supported the project by looking for alternate sources of bamboo!”

Lissa was pleased to point out “Incidentally, the theme for World Environment Day in 2018, which was also celebrated by SK Lambidan, was “Beat Plastic Pollution”. The bamboo straw idea is therefore in line with the theme to combat single-use plastic usage.”

In view of the positive progress, Lissa, who is also SERASI coordinator, launched the ‘Say No to Plastic Straw’ campaign in her school, and by October 12, the production of bamboo straw kicked off under the name Borneo Bamboo Straw.

Borneo Bamboo Straw was subsequently launched by Sabah Environmental Department during the SERASI Awards Ceremony at the National Department for Culture and Arts, JKKN Sabah in Kota Kinabalu on Oct 23.

It might appear that this effort only impacts a small area in Kuala Penyu but looking closely, it is a starting point of beating single-use plastic usage. – Linda Edward

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