Disposable tableware will be made from reeds and bamboo: it decomposes in 60 days

This image shows the decomposition of the biodegradable tableware over 60 days. Credit: Liu et al

Disposable tableware made from sugarcane and bamboo: the scientists made such a proposal in the green revolution, believing that natural materials could be a good alternative to plastic cups and plastic plates. As you know, that material in its natural environment takes a huge amount of time to fully decompose. In processing plants, certain conditions are required for their liquidation and recycling, including high temperatures.

The new non-toxic material turned out to be not only environmentally friendly, but also essentially flawless. It does not require special processing conditions and decomposes itself in just 60 days. In addition, it is durable and comfortable, and it is able to withstand morning coffee and a hot dinner.

Hongli Joo of Northeastern University says that back in 2007 she was shocked by the abundance of plastic products and especially disposable tableware that litter the planet. She decided to find a way to alleviate the existence of the environment by selecting alternative materials to replace plastic. The goal was to find a more sustainable material for disposable tableware.

Zhu and her colleagues turned their attention to bamboo and to food waste in the form of sugarcane fibers. By weaving them together, the scientists created containers made of two different materials that proved to be mechanically stable and durable, and at the same time biodegradable. The new dishes were unambiguously recognized as green.

But it was not strong enough to hold liquid and hot composition in itself. The researchers were able to select the optimal density for these components in order to ultimately create durable and high-quality food containers that, after use, falling into the soil, begin to decompose on their own as early as 45 days and completely lose their shape after 60 days.

For greater strength, the scientists added an alkyl ketene dimer to reeds and bamboo. It is widely used in the food industry as an environmentally friendly chemical to increase the strength of molded cookware.

Reference: 12 November 2020, Matter. DOI: 10.1016 / j.matt.2020.10.004