Is this the ‘FinalStraw’ to our sipping challe…



By Anthony Caggiano

The UK is preparing for a ban on plastic straws from 2020 in a bid to protect rivers and seas from waste.

Consumers and suppliers are looking for more environmentally friendly ‘straw-ternatives’, as reported by Materials World in July (click here). Paper straws have gained support from companies including McDonald’s, and wheat straws have also drawn praise.

Metal options are also an option, including this one, named FinalStraw.

The straw is made from four pieces of stainless steel, which are connected by one continuous piece of food grade silicone. When FinalStraw is pulled out of the case, it automatically self deploys.

A specially designed brush has also been made for cleaning the inside. While soap and water are recommended for general cleaning, the product can be sanitised by boiling it for five minutes, and odours can be removed with vinegar and baking soda.


The product is claimed to have a life cycle of 12,000 uses – about two uses a day for 16 years.

Once the product has reached the end of its life, the company says it will take back all old and used products to recycle the materials and/or make sure it is disposed of properly.

On top of that, the case is made from recycled HDPE.


FinalStraw was founded by Emma Cohen, who has a master’s degree from Harvard in Environmental Management and Sustainability.

She spent four years working in waste minimisation at Los Alamos National Laboratories in the Pollution Prevention department before becoming a ‘straw-trepreneur’.

While attending the University of Santa Barbara, Emma and her friends started a non-profit called Save the Mermaids, an environmental education program to educate children on the harmful effects of single-use plastics.

In 2015, Emma did a TEDx Talk on the effects of plastic straws on oceans and environment. Then in 2017, Emma started working on FinalStraw in hopes of creating a convenient, durable alternative to single-use plastic straws.

In April 2018, FinalStraw was launched on Kickstarter, raising US$1.89 million and has gone on to sell more than 250,000 units.

*All images courtesy FinalStraw.

Recycling plastic: Vinyl polymer broken down…

Recycling plastic: Vinyl polymer broken down to aspirin components

Before you read this, look around your room. How much of your surroundings are made of plastic? The chair that you sit on, the desk, the casing on your computer and monitor, the pen you use, the carpet, the shoes you wear, your clothes, your bag, the soda bottle you sip from, the furniture, the walls and even the plumbing—how many items can you identify that are plastic?

Depending on where you reside, the majority of the things around you might be made of different types of plastic. Now, if you’re outside, various parts of your car, the buses and trains, even the interior of airplanes are mostly plastic. Currently there are not many methods to recycle plastics efficiently without compromising quality. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that not a day goes by without news of microplastics in our oceans and possibly in our food supply.

A beacon of hope was recently lit at Shinshu University where Professor Yasuhiro Kohsaka and his graduate student Akane Kazama discovered acid hydrolysis of a vinyl polymer broke down into salicylic acid and acetic acid. These acids form aspirin through some reactions. Vinyl is the second most common plastic in the world today. Previous recyclable vinyl had been too unstable to work with at room temperature, and was not suitable for practical use.

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Solubility mystery of widely-used plastic so…

Solubility mystery of widely-used plastic solved

Polyether molecules tend to dissolve better in water as they contain more oxygen and fewer carbon atoms. But there are very counter-intuitive exceptions to this trend, the most well-known being the widely used plastic POM. It has the highest possible oxygen/carbon ratio but is completely insoluble. In the current issue of Nature Communications, researchers from the University of Amsterdam and the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz now put forth a definitive explanation.

The researchers in particular shed light on the solubility differences between the polyethers PEG (polyethylene glycol) and POM (polyoxymethylene) that are everywhere in our daily lives. PEG has many applications in aqueous solutions for pharmaceutical and cosmetic purposes, for instance in creams for shaving and skin-care. POM is a ubiquitous plastic material: many objects in daily life are made of POM, as are the brightly-colored Keck clips for connecting glassware, well-known to every chemist.

Although these two polyethers are much alike at the molecular level, they have very counterintuitive solubilities in water. PEG (repeating unit -CH2-CH2-O-) is perfectly soluble, and every chemistry student can tell you why: the oxygen atoms in PEG are slightly negatively charged, which makes them hydrophilic. This explanation seems to be confirmed by the comparable polymer PPG (polypropylene glycol, repeating unit-CH2-CH2-CH2-O-): it contains relatively fewer oxygen atoms than PEG, and is less soluble, which is perfectly logical.

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Recycled PET used in timber-look, noise-absorb…


By Anthony Caggiano

WoodBeQuiet panels installed on the ceiling to reduce noise in an office in San Diego, USA. All images: Acoufelt

Recycled plastic has been used to develop a series of noise-absorbing panels designed to look like timber.

The WoodBeQuiet range of planks by Acoufelt are made from polyester fibres with more than 60% recycled content. 

PET-based recycled plastic beverage bottles that normally would go to the landfill are cleaned and then cut into flakes before being melted and extruded into fibres of natural white colour. These regenerated fibres are then carded and thermo bounded to form rigid, acoustic panels.

But the extra magic lay in how they could be sound-absorbing. 

Panels used on a wall installation.

Acoufelt Marketing Manager – Global, Lucy Pittman, told Materials World the planks are made by a print technology process where the colour is targeted to the areas of the panel, while ensuring air-gaps in the porous material remain open to absorbing noise. The net result is a printing technique that is high resolution, and has no significant impact on the acoustic performance of the base material.

‘Many other high-resolution printing techniques involve laying down a hard-setting paint or ink over the top of the base surface. This can result in a filling of the air gaps in the porous surface of an acoustic material, inhibiting noise absorption,’ she said. 

‘Other printing techniques allow the colour to “run” in the material, like a drop of ink on a blotting sheet. This can result in poor resolution as the fine edge of the images blur.’

The panels can be used for walls and ceilings, and applied to hard surfaces including screens, partitions and ceiling baffles. 

Pulsed electron beams shed light on plastics…

Pulsed electron beams shed light on plastics production

Plastics are all around us—they make up our water bottles, trash bags, packing materials, toys, containers, and more. About 300 million tons of plastic are produced worldwide each year, yet the details of what goes on at the atomic scale during the plastics production process is still unclear.

Now, a new technique developed by researchers at DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), in collaboration with Dow and Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, is providing atomic-resolution details about magnesium chloride, a material involved in the production of the most common plastic, polyethylene—and could help to create a path toward sustainable plastics. Their findings were reported in Advanced Functional Materials.

The researchers used pulsed electron beams in an electron microscope to produce first-of-their-kind images of magnesium chloride. A continuous electron beam rapidly damages this delicate, beam-sensitive material, but the new technique allowed the researchers to study it without harm.

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LED-ing the way: A clean and convenient meth…

LED-ing the way: A clean and convenient method to oxidize plastic surfaces for industry

Polypropylene (PP) is everywhere, being one of the most widely used plastics in human life. A versatile material, its naturally inert surface can be modified for specific applications. Researchers at Osaka University have now developed a convenient light-driven process for oxidizing PP without harmful waste.

As reported in ChemComm, the process uses radicals to make the plastic react. The surface of PP bristles with methyl groups (–CH3), which constitute the side chains of the polymer. The strong C–H bonds in methyl groups make PP an unreactive material, which for many purposes is exactly what is needed. However, these bonds can be cleaved by the highly reactive chlorine dioxide radical, ClO2•.

“In applications like printing and medical materials, plastics must be surface-modified,” explains study co-author Tsuyoshi Inoue. “Oxidizing C–H bonds is a textbook case in organic chemistry. With polymers, however, the risk is that anything strong enough to do this may also break the C–C bonds of the main chain, ripping the polymer apart. Luckily, the ClO2• radical is selective to react the side chain.”

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New Frontiers for Recyclable Polymers Many …

New Frontiers for Recyclable Polymers

Many modern plastics, rubbers and ceramics cannot be recycled, but new polymers made from waste sulfur are promising to solve one of the planet’s biggest recycling problems – and even create new industries of the future. 

Researchers around the world have taken the next step to develop a range of these versatile and recyclable materials by controlling and improving their physical and mechanical properties to make them closer to scale up for manufacture. 

Sulfur polymers are already being used in next-generation batteries, IR imaging (such as night-vision lenses), environmental remediation, and agriculture, but it has been difficult to control the hardness, flexibility, colour and other key properties of these polymers.

Read more.

Waitrose trials package free alternatives



Credit: Waitrose & Partners 

IOM3 are celebrating World Environment Day! Check out the environmental-themed features made public from Materials World here: and check out @NatalieIOM3 on Twitter too.

By Idha Valeur

Waitrose has announced a trial project for one of its Oxford stores to feature a refill zone, frozen fruit and berries pick and mix option, as well as the opportunity to borrow containers – all in a bid to reduce plastic packaging.

The dedicated refill zone will include everyday essentials such as pasta, rice, lentils and cereals. It also offers an option to grind four types of coffee in-store and to re-fill jars. As well as a sustainable alternative for a caffeine fix, customers will be able to choose from four different wines and four different beers on tap to refill previous glass bottles to cut down on buying new ones.

‘This test has huge potential to shape how people might shop with us in the future so it will be fascinating to see which concepts our customers have an appetite for. We know we’re not perfect and have more to do, but we believe this is an innovative way to achieve something different,’ said Waitrose & Partners Head of CSR, Tor Harris.

In the same refill area, there will be an opportunity to mix and match frozen fruit and berries to meet different needs. The package-free berries will be mango, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cherries and pineapple.


Credit: Waitrose & Partners 

A lot of plastic packaging is involved in containing household’s range of different liquid soaps, whether it is detergent or washing up liquid. In this project, Waitrose has partnered with Ecover to make sure shoppers can refill their reusable containers from the dispensers with detergent in the store.

As well as the refill zone, other measures to reduce packaging include removing packaging from fruit and veg. 160 sorts of fruit and vegetable products will be available to buy loose. When offering refill stations, customers will have to bring in their own boxes to put produce in. To make this even easier, Waitrose will offer a borrow-a-box scheme where customers can borrow boxes in the shop and bring them back when they next go grocery shopping.

The main goal of the test is to figure out how customers may be inclined to shop in the future. The normally packaged equivalents of the products in the refill zone will be located in their normal spots to keep the test effective.

When given the alternatives, which will the customers go for?

IOM3 are celebrating World Environment Day! Check out the environmental-themed features made public from Materials World here: and check out @NatalieIOM3 on Twitter too.

Researchers develop viable, environmentally-…

Researchers develop viable, environmentally-friendly alternative to Styrofoam

Washington State University researchers have developed an environmentally-friendly, plant-based material that for the first time works better than Styrofoam for insulation.

The foam is mostly made from nanocrystals of cellulose, the most abundant plant material on earth. The researchers also developed an environmentally friendly and simple manufacturing process to make the foam, using water as a solvent instead of other harmful solvents.

The work, led by Amir Ameli, assistant professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, and Xiao Zhang, associate professor in the Gene and Linda School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering, is published in the journal Carbohydrate Polymers.

Researchers have been working to develop an environmentally friendly replacement for polystyrene foam, or Styrofoam. The popular material, made from petroleum, is used in everything from coffee cups to materials for building and construction, transportation, and packaging industries. But, it is made from toxic ingredients, depends on petroleum, doesn’t degrade naturally, and creates pollution when it burns.

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