Are You a Sucker for Bio-D Straws and Cups?
Joann Vu
David Thompson Secondary
Floor Location : J 024 V

On August 10, 2015, a viral-video posted on Costa Rican Turtles showed researchers pulling a plastic straw out of an Olive Ridley sea turtle’s nose. More than 50% of sea animals have ingested plastic, which has killed over 100 million of them. Another disturbing issue is the one-time use coffee cup that customers use and recycle. But is the coffee cup really recyclable? With a bit of internet research, one can find out that plastic straws and one-time use coffee cups are actually not recyclable. Inspired by this environmental issue, an investigation to create more durable, biodegradable, and compostable straws and cups was developed using different types of biodegradable waxes.

People have created paper, metal, and bamboo straws to replace the plastic ones, but none will have the strong characteristics of a plastic straw. Plastic straws are durable, flexible, and colourful whereas paper straws are not durable and metal straws are dangerous for younger children due to it inflexibility. An investigation to better solve this environmental issue, different types of biodegradable waxes (e.g., beeswax, soy wax, carnauba wax, and palm wax) were used to produce a more durable paper straw and to create a waterproof coffee cup that will be biodegradable and compostable.

In the first part of the experiment, different types of waxes were used to coat straws so that wax properties could be observed. Once the prepared waxed straws were ready, they were tested in cold water. Beeswax coated straws outlasted all the other waxed straws. However, the beeswaxed covered straw was yellow in colour, lacked flexibility, and would tend to crack if one drinking with it squeezed the straw. Soy wax coated straws were flexible but was not as durable (e.g., paper unraveled and was soaked). With these findings, a combination of waxes were used to make the most durable straw. The combination of soy wax to beeswax with the ratio of 1:1.5 resulted in giving the straws and the coffee cups a waterproof coating, durability, and without compromising their looks. In the third part of the experiment, waxed paper cups were tested with 70ºC water to imitate hot coffee. The results was that the waxed paper cups were successfully able to hold the hot liquid contents (eventually cooling to room temperature) without leaking for over 24 hours.

The results of this experimental procedure yielded a biodegradable way of waterproofing paper. With plant wax, effective paper straws and paper cups can be made, which will reduce the amount of plastic straws and one-time use coffee cups in the ocean and landfills drastically. Both, paper and waxes, come from natural sources and will have little challenge in returning back to the Earth in a non-harmful way. One-time use items like plastic straws and one-time use coffee cups have been littering our planet for way too long. It is time for change