Biodegradable fast food containers made from waste straw
A Hong Kong company is selling 100% biodegradable fast food containers, made from waste straw left over after wheat harvesting
(Photo via Shutterstock)
Not only are polystyrene fast food containers usually not recyclable, but they also take eons to break down in a landfill, can emit harmful compounds, and require petroleum to create. Using paper is one alternative, but Hong Kong-based company Innovasians is now offering another – 100% biodegradable containers made from waste straw left over after wheat harvesting.
The straw used in the process comes from China, and would otherwise be burnt. The technology itself is Canadian. Although the production process is confidential, the finished containers are composed of 60% straw, and 40% ... well, something else. Not only are they biodegradable, but they are also reportedly non-toxic, microwavable, dishwasher-safe (and thus reusable), and stable at temperatures from -40 to 260ºC (-40 to 500ºF). No petroleum-based materials are used in their production, nor are any toxins released into the environment.
The containers are currently in use by three Asian clients, although additional buyers are being sought. There’s no word on how the cost of the straw-based containers compares to that of other materials.
About the Author
An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.
All articles by Ben Coxworth
Given China's history with pet food and tooth paste I'll stick with the polystyrene.
Look at the huge volume of trash just from the food courts of the local malls; all other things being equal, this should be huge!
The article describes the material as "waste straw." You should know that straw is actually a useful and commercially viable byproduct of growing wheat, oats, rye, barley, and other crops.
Straw is used for animal bedding, mulch for plants and newly seeded lawns, insulation around outdoor water pipes and house foundations, and even as a building material for homes (Google "straw bale construction").
Finding another use for this already useful material is great.
Slowburn has it right. Coal slag, melamine, fly ash - they can keep it; it killed a lot of pets previously.
About 100 years ago the Japanese pressed flour into bowls and cups. 100% clean and recycle able and if you were still hungry you could eat the bowl.
Straw may be a new raw material but I know of disposable and fully biodegradable fast food containers made out of Plantain leaf being used in India for at least the last 25 years. I would not know about their being suitable in microwave since I have used them for ice-creams and other ambient temperature food stuff. 25 years ago microwave ovens were ultra expensive luxury items.
I am concerned about that other 40%.
Mary Alice Tanner
It is safe, as safe as baby formula. Also Straw is useful to put back into the soil of the farm which grew the wheat. Everything which is removed from a field needs to be replaced somehow, minerals etc. Wheat is the crop, animal bedding is a limited use for straw.
Often these novel and environmentally friendly things end up using more oil and fossil based energy than making the equivalent objects out of plastic. Not forgetting that plastic takes a fraction of a second to break down in a high temperature furnace, and energy is a result.
What looks like silk may really be a sow's ear.
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