Taiwanese Student Takes On Global Problem with Paper Straw Design

Taiwanese Student Takes On Global Problem with Paper Straw Design

What you need to know

A video of a plastic straw being extracted from the nose of a sea turtle pushed Cheng Wang-tung to design an award-winning foldable paper straw.

Taiwanese student Cheng Wang-tung’s (鄭王棟) foldable paper straw design has won a prestigious international design award.

Cheng, a National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (NTUST) student, won Bronze at the 2016 International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA) held at the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan on Aug. 17.

Shocked by video footage of a plastic straw being extracted from the nose of an Olive Ridley sea turtle in Costa Rica, Cheng came up with the idea for an environmentally friendly paper straw.

Cheng, a master's student with NTUST's Department of Industrial and Commercial Design, says as many as 3 billion plastic straws are used in Taiwan annually. He adds that the cost of recycling plastic straws is very high, and that plastic is not compostable.

According to state-run CNA, Cheng's straw comes in flat paper packaging and consumers need only push along pre-folded lines to get the cylinder shape of a straw.

Cheng is filing a patent for his design and hopes to sell it to the mass market to eventually replace plastic straws.

While the movement to encourage people to use reusable cutlery is growing, a reusable glass straw is currently priced at NT$400 (US$12). A Greenpeace report notes that at least 267 different species are affected by plastic waste in the ocean. Besides sea turtles, seabirds, whales, and seals are also endangered by plastic debris.

First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole