Sip on this: Drinkable ‘Plastic’?

IAMNOTPLASTIC bagUnless you live under a rock, you’ve heard about recent plastic bag bans happening around the world. We recently blogged about how France is giving consumers until 2020 to switch to disposable dishes made from 50 percent biodegradable material. People are constantly searching for ways to reduce waste in landfills by using more eco-friendly materials and products like reusable shopping bags. However, a new type of bag, made from cassava, a widespread and affordable vegetable across Indonesia, is on the horizon and could help the war on waste.

Kevin Kumala, a biology graduate and the brains behind the innovation, got to thinking when he was in Bali and noticed motorists wearing vinyl ponchos. He realized most of these ponchos, which do not decompose, were being worn a handful of times, only to be thrown away and end up in a landfill. Bali suffers from a large amount of waste washing up on its beaches, mainly from China and Indonesia dumping plastic in the ocean.

After this eye-opening experience, Kumala and his friend began studying bioplastics, and came up with their own recipe consisting of cassava starch, vegetable oil, and organic resins. According to CNN, the result was a “100% bio-based material [that was] biodegradable and compostable, breaking down over a period of months on land or at sea, or instantly in hot water.” This lead to Kumala launching his own company in 2014, Avani Eco.

However, as you know very few, if any, innovations come without obstacles. One problem has been finding reliable investors. Another is the price of the bags being more expensive than traditional plastic bags, making it a hard sell to businesses.  And you also may be asking yourself about the safety of a dissolvable plastic on the environment. Kumula isn’t worried about that, explaining it passed an oral toxicity test. He is so confident in the safety of the product he dissolved and drank the bioplastic, saying it “leaves no trace of toxic residue.” Avani Eco. Also sells cassava plastic ponchos, coffee cups, cutlery, food containers and straws.

Algae and shrimp shells are two other feedstocks being explored in the bioplastics industry. And while Kumala remains confident in the future of bioplastics Heidi Savelli, leader of a UNEP programme on marine litter, explains “the most urgent challenge is to improve our management of plastic.”

Whether or not you’d take a sip of this dissolved material, you can’t deny how interesting it is to imagine a world where plastic dissolves – eliminated the risk to marine life and keeping beaches and land cleaner. As researchers continue to develop promising new products, this may very well become the new reality. 

5 Comments


  1. Does it dissolve in cold water? What happens if you carry home frozen foods on a humid day?

    Reply

    1. Hi Jay,

      First off, thanks for reading our blog and asking an insightful question! Here is some information I found on Avani’s website:

      “Avani dissolves instantly in hot water, softens in cold water and leaves only a small amount of ash when burnt.”

      In addition, the bioplastic biodegrades in 3-6 months depending on soil conditions. Avani’s website has a ton of great information if you want to check it out: http://www.avanieco.com/avani-1/

      Stay curious!
      Ashlyn Davidson
      Polymer Solutions

      Reply

  2. While a plastic that dissolves in water seems harmless, the starch feeds algae, and may cause algae bloom, which in turn use a lot of the free oxygen in top layers of lake, and could lead to suffocation of life below.
    The ONLY good solution is to educate towards recycling, whether for recycled material or energy. Any other solution causes use of landfill space, pollution or environmental harm.
    Having said that, dissolving is better than permanent pollution and contamination.

    Reply

    1. Hi Yori,

      Thank you for reading our blog and leaving insightful feedback! Our goal is always to educate our audience about cool science happening around the world, and we hope this post achieved that! If you’re interested in learning more about Avani Eco, check out their website: http://www.avanieco.com/welcome-1/

      Stay curious!
      Ashlyn Davidson
      Polymer Solutions

      Reply

  3. Hi,
    I’m looking for a plastic bag that desolves easily in cold water and that is good and clean for the environment. Also, I would like it to desolve when on land over a short period of time.
    can you help me?
    regards,
    Graham

    Reply

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