The Polymers and Advanced Materials Group of the Universitat Jaume I in collaboration with the Laboratory of New Materials and Nanotechnology of the Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology of the Spanish Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (IATA-CSIC) have developed, together with the company Ocenic Resins, S.L. a plastic formulation suitable for making straws that are 100 percent biodegradable. These are the first straws developed based on a plastic called polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA). PHAs are naturally generated by some bacteria when subjected to controlled feeding conditions. Therefore, it is a renewable, non-oil and completely natural material. Additionally, these plastics can be obtained by feeding residues to bacteria; their production does not require oil, and they also allow waste to be valued that would otherwise have to be treated (further reducing its CO2 footprint). Since these plastics are naturally synthesized by living beings (such as cellulose present in plants, chitin present in fungi or in insects or proteins), their disintegration in the environment takes place spontaneously, thus being able to serve as food to the same bacteria that produce them. Luis Cabedo Mas, researcher in charge of the project, in addition to their environmental advantages, says, “The properties of these materials are excellent for the manufacturing of single-use products and food packaging.” Thus, straws made from this material perfectly resist hot liquids without altering the flavour of the drink (unlike paper straws). As far as industrial viability is concerned, it should be pointed out that this material can be processed using current manufacturing technologies, which makes it technically very attractive for companies in the sector. Proof of this is that the company Ocenic Resins, S.L. is already industrially manufacturing these straws and, very likely, they will soon be commercially available.
Phys.org, 20 November 2019