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Aug 15, 2019

Mark Jacobs – Making a Difference with Bamboo Straws

Bamboo grows just about everywhere in Belize. There are several varieties in the country, but what many people don’t know is that the bamboo is hailed as a super plant and it is one of the world’s most renewable materials. It is used to make furniture, toilet paper, utensils, décor, and even textiles. There’s one man who is tapping into the power of this plant in a different way. Today, reporter Andrea Polanco and cameraman Chris Mangar travelled to Hopkins to meet the man who is using bamboo to tackle the plastic problem we have in Belize. Here’s the story.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Mark Jacobs is an award-winning bartender. He has won many titles, medals and trophies in Belize & the USA. Mark was working at Hamanasi Resort in Hopkins when they decided to transition from plastic straws to something that’s good for the environment. Plastics may seem so simple, but the fact is that they have created costly pollution problem and they are harming our oceans. So, two years ago, Mark and his team tried out a few alternatives but those didn’t work as he expected.


Mark Jacobs

Mark Jacobs, Owner, DML Foxtail Bamboo Straw

“In my area which was the bar, the biggest concern was the plastic straws we used. We used a lot of plastic straws everyday and so we had to figure out what we could have used to replace the plastic straws. So, we actually tried different options. The first one we tried was the corn starch straw and it didn’t work because it was too brittle so it breaks pretty easily. We tried the paper straw and it was too mushy so half way through the drink it becomes so mushy and also I tried a little of the metal straw and it shocks your teeth or it can chip your teeth if it gets frozen up too quick.”


And that’s when Mark was introduced to the imported bamboo straw. But those straws also didn’t meet his expectations. That is when he got the idea to make his own bamboo straws right here in Belize.


Mark Jacobs

“I told my manager that I can improve on this product and I can make this because I go to the jungle a lot and there I see the straws and she said ok bring some samples for us. I brought some samples for them and they loved it and I brought different sizes like twenty of them and I was excited. I was like, yeah, and she said ok but what we need is like all same size. So, I brought another batch for them and ever since then I have been making the bamboo straws.”


That idea has grown into the DML Foxtail Bamboo Straw. It’s a small eco-friendly business that Mark and his family operate in Hopkins. Mark and his team hand-craft the bamboo drinking straws. He has a few tips and tricks that he guards closely, but it starts with these trees that grow commonly across Belize. And while he has to cut the canes to make the straws, Mark will tell you that cutting bamboo is not hurting the environment because these plants regenerate quickly which makes them a truly sustainable and renewable farm harvest product.


Mark Jacobs

“By using the bamboo straws you eliminate the plastic straws and bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants. The first thing people would say is that it is bad for the environment because you are cutting down the tree but no actually as you cut they grow back.”


And once the bamboo is harvested, they are dried naturally, cut up into different sizes and drilled to create the hollow passageway. They are washed and cleaned and then boiled. These are then put to dry, sealed, reheated and dried again. It’s not a difficult process but it takes time. And as Mark puts it, it is worth it because these straws, unlike plastics, are not going to harm marine animals or the environment, they are organic so it’s safe for humans to use one straw hundreds of times and it will help to reduce pollution.


Mark Jacobs

“It helps a lot because let’s say if you use a plastic straw and you throw it into the river, from there it washes into the ocean; from there sea turtles like jelly fish and they think the straw is jelly fish so they eat it and we ending up eating the fish or whatever from the ocean and it is a cycle where it’s bad for you. When you use it, I will give you about five to six hundred uses out of a bamboo straw and when you dispose of it you just throw it into the compost and it just decompose, other than plastic straw which last decades and will take forever to break down. There is a cool little fact about bamboo. Inside the bamboo there is a fiber, an element called the “Bamboo Kun” which fights against bacteria or fungus to grow so it is one of the best materials to use for utensils or straws.”


Mark wants more Belizeans to stop using plastic straws and look for natural alternatives like the bamboo straw. Ten straws from five and a half inches up to seven and a half inches come with cleaner and a cleaning manual in each of these packets. Owner Mark says DML is a great choice as Belize proceeds to phase out single use plastics, which includes the plastic straws.


Mark Jacobs

“It is the best alternative to plastic straws. I have been doing bartending for since 2004 and I have worked with all kinds of straws and the bamboo stands out completely.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.


DML Foxtail Bamboo Straw sells a ten pack of straws for fifteen dollars; wholesale buyers get reduced prices. If you want to start using these eco-friendly straws, you can reach Mark Jacobs at 663-0082 or you can purchase them on Amazon or at gift shops across Belize.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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