Do Tequila Distilleries Hold the Key to Replacing Plastic?

Don’t give up on drinking straws just yet.

Jose Cuervo Tradicional is turning a byproduct of the tequila making process into biodegradable and environmentally friendlier single-use drinking straws that function as well as classic plastic ones.

This is a pretty big deal. Americans use millions and millions of straws every day and plastic ones can take up to 1,000 years to decompose in landfills, which is where most straws end up. On the other hand, these agave-based biodegradable straws, that are made from FDA-approved materials, take one to five years to break down–up to 200 times faster than traditional straws. Over the next 12 months, millions of these straws will begin appearing in bars and restaurants across the United States and Mexico and used exclusively at Jose Cuervo events. 

This process, of course, starts in the field. Tequila is made from agave, which is a member of the Lily plant family. But tequila isn’t like bourbon or Scotch whisky, where the work really only begins when the grain arrives at the distillery. Agave takes years of care and nurturing to grow to maturity before distillation can start. Once it’s been harvested, it’s cooked to convert its starches to sugars, and then shredded to extract liquid to be fermented and finally distilled. The byproduct of this whole process is tons of agave fiber, which is a straw-like material that can either be returned to the earth as compost, or upcycled to create plastic, paper and fuel alternatives. As the leader in tequila, Jose Cuervo was inspired to launch ‘The Agave Project’—a way to find innovative uses for this precious material, including these drinking straws as well as stirrers, cups, surfboards and, even, car parts.

So, fix yourself a Jose Cuervo Tradicional cocktail and know that the agave that went into it is helping to reduce the amount of plastic in landfills. And watch the video above of this incredible process of turning agave fiber into biodegradable straws. Salud! 

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