Farmers fight plastic waste with rye straws

Travelling across Australia, French entrepreneurs Marion and Alexis fell in love with the Australian landscape but were shocked to find how much plastic waste was being produced, even at Australia’s most iconic destinations.

Among the waste they saw, straws were a frequent item along with cigarette butts and plastic bags and packaging.

After a video of a turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nostril went viral on social media, drawing in over 40 million views, consumers were quick to demand an end to plastic straws.

Businesses across Australia were quick to jump on the emerging trend, with local cafes offering paper straws and iconic Australian brands like Boost Juice introducing paper straws in every one of their stores across Australia.

Inspired by the movement, Marion and Alexis started researching plant-based products and found that while plant-based products were becoming increasingly popular with consumers, there was not a single drinking straw manufactured in Australia.

Everything was made aboard and imported into Australia.

The pair started looking for alternatives and what local resources were available to them so they could create a 100% Australian straw.

Their research led them to rye straws and the birth of their brand, Mister RYE.

Rye is typically used by farmers for its grain. After the stalk is harvested, a few centimetres of stubble is left in the ground and becomes feed for livestock.

“Rye is a by-product of our local agriculture industry so we are using something that’s already here to fix a current issue: plastic pollution,” Marion said.

“Rye is a very strong plant [and] following our studies, we have noticed that rye is much stronger than other plants and very suitable to become straws”.

Mister RYE say they are very proud to work with South Australian farming families.

Marion and Alexis work with farmers in the Mallee and Riverland region of South Australia, located 300km North of Adelaide and say the company is proud to work with local farming families to add value to their existing farming practices and crops.

Josh McIntosh, an organic mixed broadacre farmer from South Australia, is one of the farmers working with Mister RYE and operates a 2,393-ha property Riverland and Murray Mallee districts of South Australia.

Despite not seeing any immediate financial benefits, Josh said his motivation to work with the company and produce straws made from rye stemmed from his own desire to help the environment.

“We haven’t worked out a way to do it mechanically yet, so we have been hand harvesting it,” Mr McIntosh said.

“I don’t think it will be an income thing for us. There’s not a lot of income value in straws because as far as I can tell, it will be a labour-intensive operation.

“This is a bi-product we could be sparing for something like [alternative] straws, which is a good idea.”

All images courtesy of Mister RYE.

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