Recently, single-use plastic has been rocking headlines for its life-threatening impacts on humans and wildlife, particularly marine life. Plastic is used in literally everything, and it is present everywhere, from the water we drink to the fish we eat. Evidence of plastic pollution has been recorded far North in the icy Arctic to depths of the Mariana Trench. The amounts are estimated to be doubling by 2050.
The issue was first highlighted by David Attenborough in his series Blue Planet II in 2017. A comprehensive report by Ocean Conservancy and the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment identified that 80% of plastic stems from land-based sources, of which 75 percent comes from uncontrolled waste. It also pinpointed five countries where most plastic waste stems from, i.e., China, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Another report issued by Oceana highlighted that Amazon generated over 465 Million Pounds of plastic packaging waste in 2019 alone.
The plastic produced so far overwhelms our ability to recycle it. The only viable alternative to offset/beat the ever-expanding plastic pollution is to switch to eco-friendly, biodegradable products. Wheat straw tableware is one of them. Read on to find out what’s wheat straw plastic and how it is helping our environment.
“You need to stop using plastic to avoid eating plastic.
Facts about plastic
Here are some quick facts about plastic pollution;
- Up to 500 million tons of plastic are produced per year, and about 8 million tons end up in our oceans.
- Over 40% of the waste is single-use plastic.
- The average working life of a plastic bag is 15 minutes.
- 73% of the beach litter comprises single-use plastic, including bottles, food wrappers, plastic bags, etc.
- Every minute, about one million plastic bottles are sold worldwide.
- 91% of the plastic ever-created is not recycled at all.
- This plastic is affecting wildlife in two ways; they get strangled in it or ingest microplastics.
- 700 species have been reported so far that are affected by plastic.
- The fish larva has been reported to feed on nano-plastics in their early days.
- Plastic is affecting food and water quality, thus negatively impacting the health of the ecosystem.
Harmful impacts of plastics on the environment
The fossil-derived plastic was a great invention back in the years for its use as packaging material, hospital products, household equipment, and construction material to millions of products in every sphere of life. It was desirable for light-weight structure, flexibility, and durability when little was known of its harmful effects. However, mass production has led to a worldwide nuance of plastic pollution. The additives added to enhance its flexibility and durability also increase its life over 100 years, making it resistant to degradation. And the amounts have reached crisis levels, expected to double by 2050.
A team of researchers from the United States of America, Chile, New Zealand, France, South Africa, and Australia conducted a large-scale study comparing the size of floating plastic in the oceans. The team estimated that more than 5 Trillion plastic pieces weigh over 250,000 tons afloat at sea. However, most of it is lost from the surface during fragmentation, and scientists are not sure where the plastic goes? (Marcus Eriksen, 2014)
Health effects of plastic
The heaps of plastic waste are not only a sore sight for the eyes, but they are also damaging for our health. It doesn’t biodegrade; instead, it breaks into tiny microplastics under sunlight. The microplastics, when washed downstream, are absorbed by the plants, ingested by fish and their larva, or consumed by us through the water. They are present everywhere, from the highest peaks to the deepest trenches, around the globe.
Plastic has caused the unnatural death of millions of terrestrial and aquatic animals. Many land animals, including elephants, tigers, camel, and zebras, ingest plastic. The discarded fishing gears and six-pack plastic rings are entangling and suffocating marine organisms like seals, whales, turtles, and sea birds with little chance of getting loose and eventually leading to death. The turtles prey on the jellyfish doppelgangers, the large floating plastic bags that starve them to death. Internal injuries and infections are also affecting the health of most marine organisms.
Our food webs are also contaminated with plastics like marine animals. You might not know, but you can be consuming microplastic-loaded fish in your dinner or drinking 8-glasses of nano plastic-enriched water for a healthful living.
Several compounds in plastic composition have been identified as endocrine-disrupters and carcinogens. Such compounds are leading to reproductive, developmental, neurological, and immune disorders in living organisms. The phthalate DEHP, one of many chemicals added to plastic goods to make them flexible, is also a human carcinogen by the U.S. EPA. Toxic chemicals dumped into water bodies also accumulate on the plastic debris surface, leading to bioaccumulation and serious health hazards in marine organisms and ultimately humans.
These are the harmful impacts of plastic pollution at the consumer end. The production of plastic is also fraught with peril. The process generates tonnes of pollutant gases, i.e., carbon dioxide and methane gases, thereby contributing to climate change. Even in the piles of waste, plastic is subjected to degradation by environmental factors such as light, heat, moisture, chemical oxidation that change the polymer structure. Researchers from the University of Hawaii, United States of America, studied the environmental impacts of natural degradation of plastic. Most widely used polyethylene tetraphalate plastic releases toxic additives like BPA and hydrocarbon gases when exposed to sunlight for long durations. This can be a serious threat to our health and environment (Sarah-Jeanne Royer, 2017).
The recycling of plastic is also an energy-exhaustive process. Thus, we are left with few options to maintain our natural environment’s integrity, one of which is switching to natural, biodegradable alternatives.
What is biodegradable tableware, and why we need to use it?
All forms of plastic are bad, but single-use plastic is the worst of all. To avoid the hustle of hauling dinnerware on everyday occasions, we bulk-buy disposable cups, plates, water bottles, straws, and much more that end in the heaps of waste. This non-degradable waste is a hotspot of carcinogenic chemicals.
Also, consuming food served in plastic disposables leach toxic chemicals into our food and ultimately our body. Therefore, many environmentally-conscientious countries like China and France are taking initiatives to ban non-degradable single-use disposables.
Knowing about all the harmful health effects of plastic on the environment might have motivated you to reduce your plastic footprint. And, now you might be scratching your head at how to live a zero-waste life, right? Switching to biodegradable tableware is the best option for you.
As the name suggests, Biodegradable is something that can be degraded in the natural environment by the action of soil microorganisms and decomposers as fungi. Agricultural waste can be resourced for a wide range of biodegradable products, particularly tableware.
Global Market for Biodegradable Products
The increasing environmental awareness and rising concerns about the ill-health effects of plastics, consumer demand for eco-friendly products, and technological advancement towards meeting the sustainable development goals at every level are boosting prospects to capitalize biodegradable tableware market.
The biodegradable tableware market can be categorized based on the raw material (Wood, Bamboo, Husk, Wheat Bran, Wheat Straw, Bagasse, bioplastic, Paper, Palm Leaf, and Others), product type (Plates, Cups, Bowl, Containers, Spoons, Trays, Straw, and other Reusable Dishware); and application (Households, Restaurants & Takeaways and Distribution channel).
The report published by transparency market research offers a complete evaluation of the global tableware market by raw material, product type, application, and region. The global market for biodegradable tableware has increased significantly during recent years, 2017-2019, and it is projected to expand tremendously in the next four years, i.e., 2020-2024s. While Europe, China, Thailand, and Indonesia are leading the board to phase out the discharge of single-use plastic, Asia is topping the list for biodegradable producers.
Manufacturers are leveraged to invest in biodegradable tableware from organic waste. Agricultural waste, including Bagasse-residue of sugarcane stalk after juice extraction; Wheat Straw-residue of wheat stalk harvest, Corn Starch and Rice husk-based Bioplastic, Polylactic Acid (PLA), etc. are lucrative investment options for manufacturers in Asian countries. The Asian market is prophesized to make 2 Billion U.S. Dollars by 2027.
Here’s why we need to use eco-friendly products;
When you opt for biodegradable products, you never run out of options. Eco-friendly products come in many forms, i.e., bamboo cutlery, leaf packaging, cornstarch, wheat straw tableware, etc. The premium advantage you can achieve with these natural products is that they are free of toxic chemical additives and are biologically degradable in soil. Some microorganisms have been discovered to digest bio-plastics. With less single-use plastic being dumped at landfill sites or in the oceans, it has an overall positive impact on the environment.
Most of the biodegradable products are also compostable. This means you can compost your biodegradable tableware like plates and cups in your backyard or digester. Dishes made from organic substances like starch, bagasse, maize, and PLA plastic degrade naturally within 90 days. You can use this nutrient-rich compost for your plants. Or sell it off to your neighbors, family friends, or any composting service. This also spares you from dishwashing or using plastic garbage bags.
3- Minimal Marine Pollution
According to a National Geographic report, about 8 million tonnes of single-use plastic end in the ocean each year. This concentration is choking the life out of marine organisms and coral reefs. Switching to biodegradable plastics will help decrease oceanic pollution and save marine life.
4- Save yourself from BPA
All of the single-use plastics contain toxic chemicals, most of which are endocrine disrupters and carcinogenic, such as bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates. And these chemicals leach into your food when hot food is poured or stored in them. With biodegradable products, you don’t have to worry about chemicals leaching into your food and are a healthy choice for your kids’ lunchboxes as well.
5- Suitable for party or dine-out
Biodegradable substances are the best choice when you have a happy gathering at home, or you’re dining out. Be it a birthday, anniversary, or an engagement ceremony, you can rely on the unique pastel-colored biodegradable tableware for single-use. This saves your time for dish hauling and dishwashing to cherish the moment with your loved ones. And a plus point to satiate your environment-conscientious soul; there’s no plastic waste.
6- Energy-efficient manufacturing
Since these are extracted from renewable, plant-based raw material, biodegradable tableware needs less energy for manufacturing than oil-based plastic. Less energy means less carbon dioxide is released into the environment. With wheat straw pulp, the paper can be used for making disposable cups. This also reduces forest logging for paper making. All the factors leading to their environment-effectiveness and cost-effectiveness.
While markets worldwide avoid plastic packaging using palm or banana leaves, large and innovative business startups have started looking for biodegradable, eco-friendly plastic alternatives within their process-design and packaging.
Lush cosmetics rethink the design for their cosmetic and personal care products in solid form. The solid design eliminates the need for plastic bottles and tubes for liquid products.
Eatapple has employed the same approach, using apple juice extracts to produce straws. Biotrem manufactured edible and biodegradable plates and bowls from compressed wheat bran, the by-product of flour, which decomposes within 30 days.
Various countries around the world have imposed a ban on single-use plastic. Businesses like McDonald’s and Starbucks have taken the lead with plastic-free straws.
Other organic options include bamboo, sugarcane, and wheat straw. And we’re going to talk about wheat straw. s
What is wheat straw?
Wheat straw is an awesome, zero-waste alternative to plastic. The agricultural by-product can be used in manufacturing wheat straw plates, cups and straws, wheat straw bowls and containers, and many more. Wheat straw tableware is exceptionally light-weight, BPA-free, and microwave safe.
The bioplastics made from agricultural waste like wheat straw plastics help improve the environment in many ways;
- The conventional agricultural waste disposal practices involved the burning of wheat straw that pollutes the environment by adding carbon dioxide. With its use in the synthesis of biodegradable tableware, less carbon dioxide goes into the environment that helps reduce global warming.
- Wheat straw is renewable; produced in ample amounts with every harvest of the crop in agricultural countries. Also, it decomposes in less time by the action of soil microorganisms and fungi.
- The production of biodegradable plastics is less energy-intensive compared to regular plastics. Also, it eliminates the amount of microplastics produced from the breakdown of regular plastic washing into our oceans significantly.
- It is the best eco-friendly alternative to single-use disposables, helps reducing plastic pollution.
- Wheat straw tableware is stronger than paper plates and cups that become soggy with hot food steam. And, also saves trees and forests by eliminating the need for paper products.
How is wheat straw made of?
Wheat straw plastic is manufactured from the waste of the wheat harvest. The lignin in the wheat straw is what matters. Lignin maintains the structural integrity of the plants. When combined with sugar, it forms a sustainable bioplastic that can be molded into appealing tableware designs for everyday use.
Researchers from the United Kingdom have found a bacterium called the Rhodococcus jostii(Ahmad et al., 2011). This soil microbe produces an acid that helps in the breakdown of lignin and other materials. Thus, you don’t need synthetic chemicals to degrade it. The process can be altered by turning wheat straw into a pulp with specific chemical agents. The paper produced from this pulp can then be modeled into plates, cups, or other paper-products. The end-product is strong, durable, and heat-resistant, up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Throughout the process, there is minimal energy and water consumption. This decreases the concentration of pollutant gases and contributes to climate mitigation in the long run. No harmful chemical additives are added to enhance its strength or shelf life. It biodegrades clean and quick with minimal negatives impacts on the soil or plants, or living organisms.
Wheat straw plastic can be molded into a wide range of products as plates, cups, straws, cutlery, travel mugs, food bowls, lunch boxes, containers, trays, and many more. The process is also energy-efficient, and the product environment friendly.
What is wheat straw good for?
There are multi-faceted benefits of wheat straw for which it is popular among environment enthusiasts as an alternative to plastic disposables. Some of the features of the wheat straw tableware are listed below;
- Wheat straw tableware is strong and durable.
- Drinking straws made of wheat straw are not porous like paper straws.
- It is also freezer and microwave safe. The best thing about wheat straw bioplastic is heat resistant; it can withstand up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Bioplastic products comply with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) safety guidelines in the United States.
- Wheat straw tableware doesn’t contain toxic chemicals. It is BPA-free, gluten-free, and non-allergic product.
- Wheat straw tableware is biologically degradable and compostable. It can degrade naturally within 3 to 6 months in your backyard. This has a positive impact on the environment.
- The utilization of wheat straw in tableware manufacturing reduces the concentration of climate pollutant gases, otherwise emitted into the environment by its burning.
- It also generates revenue for local farmers.
- With increasing environmental awareness, wheat straw tableware is now in fashion. Thus, it phases-out the need for single-use plastic and helps reduce plastic pollution.
- The production process also uses less energy and water and emits less carbon dioxide.
Does wheat straw tableware help to reduce plastic pollution?
Yes, it does. Considering all the facts stated above, wheat straw tableware is the best environment-friendly alternative to single-use plastic. It employs a zero-waste approach from start to end. The process begins in the fields, with the agricultural waste being used as raw material. And the process ends in the ground as well with the biodegradable, compostable nature of tableware.
With the growing market for biodegradable products, there is less plastic streaming down in our rivers and oceans, which means fewer microplastics are ingested by marine organisms or consumed by us through drinking water. This also saves us from the adverse health effects of harmful chemicals going into our bodies through food. It is a win-win situation for both producers and consumers.
The negative impacts of plastic pollution on humans and wildlife have been well-documented and well-researched. The health concerns from uncontrolled plastic pollution have boosted the environmental awareness campaigns. Such efforts aim to educate people about the adverse health effects of single-use plastic on animal and human health.
They’re also provoking people to adopt a practical yet simple eco-friendly lifestyle. One can easily step forward to a zero-waste lifestyle by reducing their plastic-footprint. This can be done by saying no plastic bags and using cotton bags instead when going to market. Or switch to biodegradable products instead of plastic disposables.
People are becoming aware of the environmental benefits of biodegradable products and love to use them. Biodegradable products are derived from 100% natural products or by-products like an agricultural waste. Therefore, offer the best sustainable alternative to single-use plastic.
Feel free to use eco-friendly tableware as lunchboxes for your kids, office, in-house parties, and dine-outs. And, if you are looking for a reliable manufacturer, visit our store to select from a wide range of biodegradable tableware.
Ahmad, M., Roberts, J. N., Hardiman, E. M., Singh, R., Eltis, L. D., & Bugg, T. D. (2011). Identification of DypB from Rhodococcus jostii RHA1 as a lignin peroxidase. Biochemistry, 50(23), 5096-5107. doi: 10.1021/bi101892z
Marcus Eriksen, L. C. M. L., Henry S. Carson, Martin Thiel, Charles J. Moore, Jose C. Borerro, Francois Galgani, Peter G. Ryan, Julia Reisser. (2014). Plastic Pollution in the World’s Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea. doi: 10.6084/10.1371/journal.pone.0111913
Sarah-Jeanne Royer, S. F. n., Samuel T. Wilson, David M. Karl. (2017). Production of methane and ethylene from plastic in the environment. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0200574
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