Papaya trees fight the plastic straw war

Argentina (Buenos Aires)

A pioneer in Argentina’s anti-straw movement, Juani Gerardi, founder of Bioconexión, was way ahead of state authorities in banishing unfantastic plastic. Disturbed that they contributed to 150 tons of plastic refuse a year in the capital Buenos Aires, in 2017 Juani – who usually connects rural farmers with chefs – drew upon his agricultural knowledge and network to enlist a natural solution: the papaya tree.

A single-trunk palm-like perennial that grows in subtropical areas of northwest province Jujuy, papaya’s hollow petioles (leaf stalks) proved just the ticket for Bioconexión’s Payitas biodegradable vegetable straw initiative. Its impact is also far-reaching, using sustainable plants, creating biodegradable products, reducing environmental damage and generating a new income channel for vulnerable rural farmers – with the bonus that papaya fibres don’t affect any beverage’s taste.

Harvest completed, farmers cut petioles by hand, then peel, wash and shape the tubes with a sanding machine before drying them outdoors. To date, Bioconexión has fashioned 100,000 compostable Payitas papaya – and also tacuara bamboo – straws that have accompanied cocktails prepared in Buenos Aires bars such as Tres Monos and Florería Atlántico long before City Hall outlawed the plastic villains in November 2019. Payitas are also available from Bioconexión’s store located at Mercado de Belgrano indoor market.

Written by

Sorrel Moseley-Williams (22 July 2020)

Project leader

Juani Gerardi, founder

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