Edible straws: the new plastic free cocktails

Jul 9 2019, 09:56 | by Annalisa Zordan
From Canù edible straws to the anti-straw bartender movement. Many are moving towards a plastic free future.

The plastic issue is widespread and we know it. The latest news also concerns Italy and the Mediterranean, where a new island of plastic waste is floating towards the waters between Elba and Corsica. This is why more and more companies and startups are taking action with plastic-free solutions, also in view of 2021, the year in which all European countries will definitively abandon disposable plastic.

Canù, the edible straw

From edible straws to the movement of anti-straw bartenders. Many are moving towards a responsibly plastic free future, whether driven by an environmental conscience or the new (and more than legitimate) European directive that bans disposable plastic. The latest, among eco-sustainable solutions, is an edible straw, called Canù, created and marketed by the Campo di Fossombrone cooperative in the Marche, which has been operating for years in the field of organic farming and pasta.

"Straws are one of the plastic products that are found in greater quantities on the beaches and in the seas". Raffaello Bonora, one of the Canù project managers, explains. "That's why we decided to collaborate with a pasta factory to produce biodegradable straws". To give him the idea was a restaurateur from Bristol who during an interview with the BBC explained how he had stopped using plastic straws in favor of ziti pasta, but at the same time was looking for another sustainable gluten free solution. "Considering that we already produce ziti, the challenge was to produce them gluten free, so in collaboration with a pasta factory in the area, we modified the short pasta machine starting to produce completely biodegradable ziti made with rice and corn flours". Their ziti are certified gluten free and organic - "The poison used in the fields is as dangerous as the plastic in the seas" - and, if desired, they are also edible. "Our first customer was Caffè Pascucci, which has more than 700 bars scattered around Italy, and they told us that our straws are often snacked upon, especially by children. However, even if they end up in the compost bin, they are completely biodegradable and can even be recycled to feed animals or fish". 

Other examples of edible straws

But the Marche cooperative is not the first to focus on edible straws, always in Italy think for example of Sorbos, a company which makes edible straws glazed with sugar, corn starch and water, capable of remaining stiff even in the drink of choice for about forty minutes. These straws are already found in several bars, we have tried them at Feria on the roof of Lanificio in Rome.

The anti straw movement

Since we're still not clear as to what makes an adult ask for a straw to sip a drink or a cocktail, we asked Julian Biondi of BarOmeter and Mad Souls & Spirits in Florence: "Sincerely? It's often women who don't want to spoil their lipstick!" But the bartender, who in the showcase of his cocktail bar for about a year and a half has displayed in plain view a sign bearing a play on the word "straw" bodes well: "Most people do not even notice that we don't put straws, we say that the fear of discontenting the customer is quite a false myth. And if you really want one, we'll give you a paper one".

 Did anyone ever complain about getting rid of straws?

"Someone after ordering the cocktail asks us why there is no straw, thinking we're trying to save money, but once we explain that cardboard straws cost twenty-five times more than plastic ones that - above all - are used for five minutes but remain in the environment for a thousand years, here, at that point customers support our choice". And if we think that cocktails often needed two straws - "so customers drank faster: it's a shopkeeper trick" - we can see that some progress has been made and there's more coming, considering that more and more local (perhaps specifically cocktail bars) are slowly abandoning straws and plastic in general.

Drinking from the glass is a whole different story

Which also favors the organoleptic experience: "The first impact with a drink is the olfactory one, and if you interpose a straw between your nose and the contents of the glass, the experience is halved because in practice you take your nose away from the cocktail". Not to mention that many drinks have crustas that affect the taste and that the sensation of ice (the main ingredient of cocktails, but we'll talk about them in detail shortly) on the lips is another integral part of the cocktail experience. Having said that, if you really have to drink with a straw, choose eco-friendly ones or do as some Americans do: "They are the biggest straw users of all, but they're also increasingly sensitive to the environmental issue, so much so that I happened to see customers come up to the counter with their owne reusable straws".

Plastic free. This is only the beginning

It's only a very small drop in the ocean (and in a sector) that is truly plastic free. The next challenge, we hope, also concerns food delivery - in Italy packaging has stopped at the Middle Ages - and kitchens, which between vacuum bags, transparent film or disposable gloves, just to mention some disposable plastic items, are tragically misbehaving. What is certain is that if the legislation really incentivized the abundance of plastic, perhaps with tax breaks for those who invest in organic materials or with hygienic rules in step with the times, it would be a completely different story.


by Annalisa Zordan

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