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Embracing A Plastic-Free Future: Biodegradable Tableware Leading The Way

Author: Alex     Publish Time: 2024-01-16      Origin: Alex

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In a groundbreaking move towards sustainability, scientists have developed a range of eco-friendly cutlery made from sugar cane and bamboo. These biodegradable plates, cups, and cutlery offer a convenient and functional alternative, aiming to replace traditional plastic containers that contribute to environmental pollution.

Unlike conventional plastics or biodegradable polymers that can take centuries to decompose, this non-toxic material degrades in just 60 days, making it an environmentally friendly choice for daily use. A recent report on this innovative plastic alternative has been published in the journal Matter.


Julie, the corresponding author from Northeastern University, shared her inspiration behind the project. Having arrived in the United States in 2007, she was taken aback by the prevalence of single-use plastic containers in supermarkets. Recognizing the environmental impact of plastic waste, especially in seminars and parties where plastic bowls, plates, and cutlery are discarded, she envisioned the need for more sustainable materials.

To address this issue, Julie and her colleagues turned to bamboo and bagasse, sugarcane pulp, a significant byproduct of the food industry. The combination of long, thin bamboo fibers and short, thick bagasse fibers resulted in mechanically stable and biodegradable containers. These new green tableware items exhibit strength comparable to plastic, suitable for holding liquids, and are cleaner than biodegradable alternatives made from non-deinkable recyclable materials.

The material begins decomposing after 30-45 days in soil, completely breaking down after 60 days. Researchers have enhanced oil and water resistance in molded tableware by adding alkyl ketene dimer (AKD), an environmentally friendly chemical widely used in the food industry. This addition ensures the product's strength in wet environments, outperforming commercial biodegradable food containers.


Beyond its ecological benefits, the developed tableware also boasts a significant reduction in carbon emissions. The manufacturing process emits 97% less CO2 than plastic containers and 65% less than paper and biodegradable plastics. Future plans include enhancing energy efficiency and reducing costs to compete with plastic products, although the current cost of manufacturing cups from this new material is already half that of biodegradable plastic.

Julie acknowledges the challenge of discouraging the use of single-use containers due to their affordability and convenience. However, she believes that adopting containers made from sustainable and biodegradable materials presents a promising solution for a greener future.

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