Boston team creates tableware that biodegrades in 60 days

November 16, 2020 |

In Boston, a team of Northeastern researchers have developed single-use tableware from bamboo and sugar waste that biodegrades in just 60 days. 

Hongli Zhu, an assistant professor at Northeastern University, tells Fast Company she wanted to pursue biodegradable products after coming to the United States in 2007 and seeing how much single-use plastic waste was generated. “If you [look] at the whole population, I can’t imagine how much plastic waste this kind of onetime use food container waste we generate on Earth,” she adds. “People try to use materials created by humans, but I think we should look to nature. Nature has so much to offer.”

The team decided on using sugarcane bagasse because of abundant availability of the waste in Brazil and added bamboo fiber to strengthen the material. Wood pulp was avoided because if its cost and environmental impact. After molding, the team buried the tableware to test biodegradability; the  material began to deform after 30 days and disappeared by 60. “The chemical component in the end is cellulose—it’s the same chemical compound of grass, of a tree in your yard,” Zhu says.

The work was published in a recent issue of the journal Matter. 

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Category: Chemicals & Materials

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