The bamboo and sugar cane dishes, resistant and decomposing in just 60 days

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Carlos Laforet Coll
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A team of American researchers has created resistant and ecological tableware from bamboo and sugar cane

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A group of scientists from Northeastern University in Boston has designed a set of “green” tableware made with bamboo and sugarcane scraps. Practical, functional and economical, they could become an excellent alternative to disposable plastic.

Considering that our planet is invaded by plastic waste and that the use of this material is increasingly unsustainable, many are looking for and experimenting with valid alternatives. Unlike traditional plastics, which take hundreds of years to break down, this team of researchers' invention is made up of a non-toxic and environmentally friendly material that takes just 60 days to completely decompose.

The new tableware set, the work of the team led by Hongli Julie Zhu of Northeastern University and featured in an article that appeared in Matter magazine, is made in Bamboo together with one of the largest waste products of the food industry: the bagasse, Also known as sugar cane pulp.

“It is difficult to prohibit people from using single-use containers because they are cheap and convenient. But I think one of the good solutions is to use more sustainable, biodegradable materials to make these disposable containers, ”said Hongli Julie Zhu.

And this was precisely the aim of the research. By wrapping long, thin bamboo fibers together with short, thick bagasse fibers to form a tight web, the team has been able to model different types of containers that are strong enough to hold liquids like plastic does but in a much more sustainable way. These in fact begin to decompose after being in the ground for 30-45 days and completely lose their shape after two months.

@ Matter

@ Ruby Wallau/Northeastern University

To increase the oil and water resistance of the dishes, while also ensuring their robustness when wet, the researchers also added alkyl ketene dimer (AKD), an environmentally friendly chemical widely used in industry, to the materials. With the addition of this ingredient, the new tableware has surpassed biodegradable commercial food containers, such as other bagasse-based tableware and egg cartons, in terms of mechanical strength, fat resistance and non-toxicity.

The dishes made in this way also have another advantage: the production process emits 97% less CO2 than commercially available plastic containers and 65% less CO2 than paper and biodegradable plastic products.

The next step for the team is to make the manufacturing process more energy efficient in order to further reduce costs so that they can fully compete with plastics.

Sources: Matter

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