China develops eco-friendly edible straws

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A young couple drink bubble milk tea amid snowfall in Urumqi, northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Jan. 23, 2021. Xinhua Photo

BEIJING: Chinese researchers have developed a new type of eco-friendly edible straws without microplastics.

Disposable plastic straws take hundreds of years to completely degrade, causing serious environmental issues and potential threats to human health.

Paper straws have been used by the restaurant industry, but they bring bad taste to users and are generally easy to deform.

In early 2020, China released an ambitious plan to ban or drastically reduce the production and use of environmentally harmful plastic products over the next five years to contain pollution.

Researchers have developed the new edible, microplastic-free straw made from bacterial cellulose through biosynthesis.

The straw achieves better mechanical performance than paper straws and avoids additional adhesives, according to the research paper published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

Straws made from bacterial cellulose can be made finer than paper straws with the same performance requirements.

With edible dyes or natural plant extracts loaded onto a network of bacterial cellulose 3D nanofibers, a variety of colors and flavors can be absorbed into the straws to deliver better taste.

Straws can rapidly degrade in the environment without causing any negative environmental impact, China Science Daily reported.

Experiments have shown that they break into pieces in 15-45 days, or even almost disappear.

The edibility provided a better user experience, making straw made from bacterial cellulose a healthier and more environmentally friendly substitute for plastic straws.

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