Wheat straw is a commonly unused renewable resource that is a smart, environmentally sustainable alternative to plastic. It has FDA approval and is seen as a premium food-grade material, as it is completely BPA-free. The impact of regular plastic on the environment is devastating, and wheat straw "plastic" is an awesome alternative.
The plastic is made from a by-product of wheat production, namely wheat straw. It has many applications like wheat straw food containers, wheat straw drinking straws, wheat straw plastic plates, reusable coffee cups, and many more.
What is Wheat Straw Plastic and is it Eco Friendly?
So what is wheat straw plastic? Wheat is a type of grain that is used to make flour, bread, and wheat-derived products like pasta. Wheat straw is the byproduct that is left over after the wheat harvest, and by using it to make a plastic-like substance, it is an ideal zero-waste option.
Wheat straw contains cellulose and by breaking it down, a new product can be created. The process creates the opportunity to make different kinds of polymers. Natural polymers are found in our bodies, like hair and nails. Plastic is made from artificial polymers, but polymers created from wheat straw, are completely natural.
How is Wheat Straw "Plastic" Made?
Straw, which is the by-product of the wheat harvest, contains lignin. Lignin is the part of the plant that keeps it standing up. So it is similar to a tree trunk, but for smaller plants. Lignin, when combined with sugar, can be turned into a bio-plastic.
First, the lignin needs to be broken down to be able to make the plastic-like material. Lignin is broken down by bacteria called Rhodococcus jostii, which is found in soil. The bacteria can produce acid, which easily breaks down the lignin without the use of any artificially produced products, which is far better for the environment.
Once the lignin has been broken down, it is mixed with sugar to form a plastic-like substance. This is then molded into forms like plates, cups, and storage containers.
Wheat straw is also used to create a paper-like substance that is used to make products. With the addition of certain chemicals, the straw is turned into a pulp, and the pulp is then pressed into a plate. It is strong, non-allergenic, and does not contain any gluten.
This process is not limited to wheat straw only, other agricultural waste products like grass, leaves, and even wood, can also be used, thereby producing an all-natural plastic!
Perks and Benefits of Wheat Straw "Plastic":
It is entirely biodegradable.
It will take 3 to 6 months to turn to compost in your home compost device and only 1 to 2 months in a local municipal compost facility.
It is renewable and sustainable.
These products are completely natural, they can decompose and be used as fertilizer.
It is Non-allergenic.
It is Gluten-free.
It is easy to clean, sturdy, and strong.
It is microwave and freezer safe.
It is odorless and will not go moldy.
It can handle hot liquids up to 100°Celsius / 220°Farenheit
It adheres to US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines.
Less energy is required to produce the wheat straw plastic-like substance. A lot of energy is used to produce artificial plastic and the emission of carbon dioxide gasses is very high. Because wheat straw is natural, it requires much less energy to produce.
The natural fibers make the material sturdy without requiring the addition of toxins like oil.
An additional source of income for the wheat farmers as they can sell the byproducts for a reasonable price.
Waste disposal is reduced since there is no need to burn the straw, which further adds to air pollution.
Disposable plastic and paper products, like plates and cups, can be replaced by products using the wheat straw substance. There is no need to cut down our forests to get the materials needed- we can use the agricultural product commonly seen as waste: Wheat Straw.
What is the Impact of Wheat Straw "Plastic" on the Environment?
Wheat straw is a byproduct of growing edible grains, so no additional farming or harvesting procedures are required. It is biodegradable, so will take less time to break down naturally.
Through the process of photosynthesis, while growing wheat, it would extract more carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air, than it would produce. Production of bioplastic consumes less energy and gives off less CO2 emissions than the production of synthetic plastic which is derived from petroleum.
Traditionally the straw was burnt after the wheat harvest, which would give off more CO2 gases, so this is avoided. Although the burning of wheat straw has been banned in the UK, and it is frowned upon by many, the fields are still burnt in many parts of the world like South America. Bioplastic is beneficial for our planet and global warming, thereby reducing the carbon footprint.
Wheat straw plastic is very versatile and can be used for many applications. Because of the heat resistance of up to 100° Celsius / 220° Fahrenheit can be used for reusable travel mugs. It is a great way of reducing single-use plastics.