Non-toxic and environmentally friendly:New biological tableware decomposes in just 60 days.

Non-toxic and environmentally friendly:New biological tableware decomposes in just 60 days.

Scientists have designed a set of green tableware made from sugar cane and bamboo that does not sacrifice sex or functionality and could become an alternative to disposable plastic containers such as plastic cups. While conventional plastics or biodegradable take 450 years or decompose at high temperatures, this non-toxic, eco-friendly material takes only 60 days to degrade and can be used to hold your breakfast coffee. A paper on this was recently published in Matter.

To be honest, when I first came to the United States in 2007,eco cutlery I was shocked by the disposable plastic containers sold in supermarkets. The author, Hongli Zhu of Northeastern University, said: It makes our lives more convenient, but at the same time, it becomes a non-decomposable waste in the environment. Later, Hongli Zhu saw more plastic bowls, plates and cutlery being thrown in the trash at seminars and parties, so she thought:Can we use more sustainable materials?

To find alternatives to plastic food containers, Hongli Zhu and his colleagues turned their attention to bamboo and one of the largest food industry wastes, sugarcane bagasse, also known as sugarcane pulp. The long, thin bamboo fibers and the short, thick bagasse fibers are twisted together to form a tight mesh structure. The team used these two mechanically stable, biodegradable materials to make containers. This new green tableware is not only as strong as plastic, but also cleaner than biodegradable products made from recyclable materials. The latter may not be completely deinked, and the new tableware begins to decompose after 30 to 45 days in the soil and loses its shape completely after 60 days.

The researchers added alkylenone dimer (AKD) - an environmentally friendly chemical widely used in the food industry - to improve the tableware's oil and water resistance, thus ensuring the product's robustness when wet. With the addition of this component, the new tableware outperforms other commercial biodegradable food containers, such as bagasse tableware and egg cartons, in terms of mechanical strength, oil resistance and non-toxicity.

The researchers have developed an additional advantage: a significantly smaller carbon footprint. The manufacturing process for this new product emits 97 percent less carbon dioxide than commercial plastic containers and 65 percent less than paper products and biodegradable plastics. The team's next goal is to improve the energy efficiency of the manufacturing process and further reduce costs in order to compete with plastics. While the cost of a cup made from this new material ($2,333/ton) is 1/2 the cost of biodegradable plastic ($4,750/ton), it is still more expensive than a traditional plastic cup ($2,177/ton).

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