Researchers Create Plastic Straws from Potato Starch

Traditional plastic is made with crude oil or natural gas, but bioplastic might not be the safest alternative.

Conventional plastic is made with crude oil or pure gasoline, however bioplastic won’t be the most secure various.
Picture: Breslavtsev Oleg (Shutterstock)

Because the conflict on plastic straws rages on, researchers in Korea have created a bioplastic various that’s made out of potato starch and citric acid. In a paper paper revealed in ACS Omega, the workforce says that these new straws are stronger than plastic and extra sturdy than paper.

To create the straws, researchers led by Dickens O. Agumba from Inha Univeristy in Korea mixed potato starch and lignin—a polymer discovered within the partitions of plant cells—together with polyvinyl alcohol to kind a slurry. Agumba and his colleagues then unfold the slurry on a glass floor to dry earlier than rolling it right into a straw form utilizing a Teflon rod and curing it in an oven. The sheet was capable of seal itself on the edges to kind the straw.

Conventional plastic straws are simply the tip of the iceberg of the world’s burgeoning plastic drawback; something we will invent to ease ourselves off our habit to plastic is, arguably, an excellent factor. But everyone knows the annoying feeling of a paper straw dissolving inside 5 minutes of placing it into an iced espresso. Discovering a option to create a straw much less dangerous to the setting that’s not made out of oil and gasoline—and that doesn’t go soggy—could possibly be an actual game-changer.

“The performance of the straws and movies surpassed paper and plastic straws, making them quintessential candidates for all-natural sustainable growth,” Agumba and his collaborators wrote of their paper.

In testing the bioplastic straws, the workforce discovered that they remained inflexible in sizzling (95 levels Celsius, or 203 levels Fahrenheit) water for as much as 24 hours. To check the biodegradability of the straws, Agumba and his collaborators left a starch straw and a conventional plastic straw in two completely different places, on soil and within the branches of a tree, discovering that whereas the standard plastic straws remained unchanged after two months, the starch straws confirmed indicators of decay.

Because the bioplastic was shaped in a sheet, the researchers argue that this technique permits for straws to be manufactured in several lengths and thickness, for various drinking purposes. Lignin and potato starch, the workforce claims, are additionally cheaper than the cellulose different straws are product of, that means these straws could possibly be inexpensive than different plastic options in the marketplace.

It’s all the time thrilling to see a brand new plastic various propping up. However simply because one thing is labeled bioplastic doesn’t imply its environmentally pleasant. Plastic is normally made with crude oil and pure gasoline, and the time period “bioplastic” is only a obscure descriptor of any plastic that’s made with some proportion of bio-based materials—at the same time as little as 30%, within the case of Coca-Cola’s plant-based bottles. There’s no standardized measure for what bioplastic is, and some analysis points out that bioplastics comprise simply as a lot—if no more—poisonous chemical compounds than conventional plastic. While the workforce’s observations in regards to the straws breaking down in nature look promising, it positively requires additional examine, and it’s essential to know that bio-based plastics aren’t the treatment right here—many bioplastics have to be composted in an industrial facility with the intention to absolutely break down.

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