New Biodegradable Straws Made From Greenhouse Gases Dissolve in the Sea!

New Biodegradable Carbon-Negative Straws and Forks Are Made From Greenhouse Gases–and They Dissolve in the Sea!

It’s not every day that I have the opportunity to report on something new, exciting and interesting at the same time. This subject is and should be, close to all our hearts. We have all looked on in disbelief and sadness at the pictures of sea creatures having to navigate through tons of plastic that the’developed’ world has discarded.

Championed by Friends of the Earth and many other groups, a new law came into effect today that bans the use of ‘single-use’ plastics in the UK- Spain follows suit next year. The question is what are the millions of stirrers and straws being replaced with? A California company is employing ocean microorganisms to convert methane into physical material in order to make a line of single-use straws, cutlery and even fashion!- brilliant!

The company, Newlight, hopes their revolutionary technology, which Popular Science called “the most important innovation of the year,” will go a long way in removing the burden of single-use plastic straws and other takeaway food components from the ocean.

The manner in which the material, that Newlight calls “Air Carbon,” is made, comes straight from the example of nature—taking in greenhouse gas is something co-founder and CEO Mark Herrema notes happens every day in the form of photosynthesis in plants. Since 2003, the company has been wondering if it were possible to harness that action and they finally worked it out.

The science behind it

Underwater, however, microorganisms don’t merely ‘go out for lunch’ on CO2, but more powerful greenhouse gases like methane as well- like the type cows are responsible for! Harvesting methane from an abandoned mine in California, engineers at Newlight added the gas to a tank containing 15,000 gallons of seawater and millions of microbes.

What happened next was pure science fiction, the microbes consumed the methane and turned it into a meltable energy source inside themselves, which Newlight promptly extracted and dried into a fine white powder that’s dishwasher-safe, carbon-negative, and ocean-degradable. Working years on the project, the scientists and engineers had a ‘eureka’ moment.

                                   Newlight’s knife and forks, fully biodegradable-brilliant! image: Newlight

Where does fashion come into the equation?

Newlight has been able to generate a line of hyper-sustainable products; not only the aforementioned flatware and straws but also fashion products. Covalent makes a line of wallets and sunglasses out of the same Air Carbon material, neutralizing the greenhouse gases associated with the production of leather and synthetic materials with the special carbon-negative ocean-born material, eliminating greenhouse gasses in every stage of the value chain.

Meanwhile, Restore Foodware, dissolves in seawater like cellulose, which actually provides food to everything from microorganisms to fish. Their line of cocktail and jumbo straws along with takeaway flatware won Technology Pioneer Award from the World Economic Forum.

So, we are getting there, and if all countries adopt this approach and the oceans carry on being cleaned out by the giant ‘scrapers’ recently seen on TV then one day all the sea creatures will be able to swim around in an environmentally free clean ocean- and surely, that’s a good thing for us, our children and most of all, the Planet. TW

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Tony Winterburn

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