A research team from the UGA New Materials Institute and the RWDC Environmental Stewardship Foundation is developing what may become the world’s first fully biodegradable, commercially viable plastic straw.
Using a first prize of nearly $720,000 from Singapore’s inaugural Ecosperity Liveability Challenge, the team is working with a proprietary, bio-based resin in the class of polymers called polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) that is fully biodegradable in soil, fresh water and marine water. The next step is to show that prototype straws can be manufactured consistently and at a scale to meet global demand.
Currently, there are few non-plastic straw alternatives available to consumers.
“[Petroleum-based plastics] last forever,” says Jason Locklin, director of the New Materials Institute. “Less than 10 percent of these plastics are recycled. The 90 percent that aren’t recycled will ultimately fragment over time and, as micronized plastic, can end up in our soil, rivers and oceans—forever.”