Filipino students developing ‘saba’ as alternative to plastic straws

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 19 2020 03:39 PM

MANILA — A group of students from the De La Salle University in Dasmariñas, Cavite are trying to develop banana-based straws in a bid to address the country’s plastic waste problem.

Marlon Pareja, the research adviser of the Grade 12 students, told ABS-CBN News that the class was “given real world problems and were tasked to find solutions that are sustainable.”

It was through this that the students started thinking about finding alternatives to plastic straws.

"Most of us students like to drink coffee and milk tea. We observed that we produce a lot of plastic waste from the drinking straws we used in these beverages that we only use for a very short time” Sherard Ballon, a member of the group, said in a statement.

Pareja said the group also observed that peelings of saba, a kind of banana that is often cooked, is also often discarded. Saba is usually used for popular Filipino snacks such as turon and banana cue.

Dreamdith Dy and Patricia Ramos said they decided to use saba peelings because there was not much research done on it. 

They were able to turn the peelings into straw by scraping off the fibers and “turning them into a sort of a bioplastic product with the help of a plasticizer.”

The result is a dark-colored straw that is reminiscent of a Cuban cigar.

Danica Eneirga and Jerrika Tonio, who are also members of the group, said they still need to continue working on their prototype to “develop the optimum mixture.”

Pareja said his students are now testing their prototype’s “degradability in water” and comparing its performance with paper straws.

Other tests are also being done to see how effective the saba straws are.

Asked if the straws are also edible, Pareja said it is not part of the study although it is possible since the other ingredients used should also be edible.

Pareja said the results of the ongoing study will be published and presented in a conference as part of the school’s research curriculum.