Mass-producible straws made of a biodegradable composite

Renewable materials company Stora Enso and start-up Sulapac developed renewable and biodegradable straws made from a wood composite material.

Plastic straws are non-recyclable and do not biodegrade, which is why many companies have jumped on the bandwagon to develop alternatives. There are straws made from reusable materials, like metal, glass or silicone, or biodegradable ones made of seaweed, paper, or straw.

One of the most common heard complaints about reusable straws, aside from the fact that you have to remember to bring them with you, is hygiene. Disposable, biodegradable straws are a solution to that, but have their own downsides. Paper straws, the most common alternative to plastic straws, become soggy when they are used too long, for example.

The alternative developed by Stora Enso and Sulapac is made from Sulapac’s biodegradable, non-toxic material. This material consists of certified wood and natural binders and complies with the European food contact material legislation. After use, the straws can be composted in industrial composters, and if they end up in a marine environment, they biodegrade.

Nearly simultaneously, researchers from Mie University in Japan also developed straws made of a wood composite. Powdered wood is mixed with a plant-derived substance to create a mouldable material. The straw is made in a metal mould and left to dry. When soaked in water for an extended period, the material starts to disintegrate. The material is suitable for other products as well, though the main issue is to mass-produce the straws at the moment, because the material can get deformed during the drying process.

Photos: Sulapac