Scientists have developed a set of “green” utensils made from sugarcane and bamboo, which, in terms of convenience or functionality, is not inferior to disposable cups and other plastic containers. The new development is reported by Matter journal.
Dishes made from traditional plastic or biodegradable polymers take about 450 years to decompose or require high temperatures to speed up the process. However, the new non-toxic, environmentally friendly material decomposes in just 60 days and is durable enough.
To find an alternative to plastic food containers, Julie Zhu of Northeastern University and her colleagues turned their attention to bamboo and sugarcane cake. By the way, this is one of the largest food industry waste. By weaving long and thin bamboo fibers with short and thick fibers of cake to form a dense web, the scientists created two-material containers that were mechanically stable and biodegradable.
The new green cookware is strong enough to hold liquids, like plastic, and cleaner than biodegradable materials made from recycled materials that can’t be completely cleaned of paint. In addition, these containers begin to decompose after being in the soil for 30-45 days and completely lose their shape after 60 days.
The researchers added Alkyl Ketene Dimer (AKD), a widely used environmentally friendly chemical in the food industry, to improve the oil and water resistance of the cookware, keeping the product strong even when wet. With the addition of this ingredient, the new cookware has outperformed commercial biodegradable food containers in mechanical strength, grease resistance and non-toxicity.
Cookware developed by the researchers has another advantage: a significantly lower carbon footprint. The new product produces 97% less CO2 than commercially available plastic containers and 65% less CO2 than paper products and biodegradable plastics.
“It is difficult to prevent people from using disposable containers because it is cheap and convenient,” concludes the study’s author. “But I think one good solution is to use more sustainable materials and biodegradable materials to make these disposable containers.”