WHOI Scientists Investigating Paper Straw Alternative

FALMOUTH – The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is studying new kind of straws to help cut down on plastic pollution along the region’s coasts.

The new prototype straw utilizes a bioplastic based on wood pulp that will degrade fast in the environment, rivaling even paper straws. They found that the foam-like structure increased surface area, leading to fast breakdowns. 

Utilizing water samples taken from Martha’s Vineyard Sound, scientists determined that the prototype degraded over 80% faster than solid counterparts. 

“Nonpersistence in natural environments with benign degradation products is a growing design criterion for consumer plastics. However, data on their biodegradation rates and environmental lifetimes in the coastal ocean are lacking, limiting informed engineering and regulatory decisions,” write researchers in their research paper.

“Single-use drinking straws, a common marine litter relevant to key stakeholders, exemplify this.”

Current paper straws last on average just over a year in sea water before breaking down, according to scientists.

The global straw market had an expected value of 19.2 billion dollars in 2023, according to Future Market Insights.

The research article by Bryan D. James, Yanchen Sun, Mounir Izallalen, Sharmistha Mazumder, Steven T. Perri, Brian Edwards, Jos de Wit, Christopher M. Reddy, and Collin P. Ward can be found here.

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native from Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the CapeCod.com News Center in 2019.

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