UAE researchers innovate to create sustainable solutions
Every year, an astonishing amount of plastic waste, estimated in the millions of tons, makes its way into our oceans, wreaking havoc on marine life and throwing ecosystems out of balance. Straws, in particular, have emerged as one of the most pervasive single-use plastics, which has become a major environmental concern.
As the world grapples with the issue of plastic pollution, scientists are turning to nature for inspiration. Researchers from United Arab Emirates (UAE) University have developed a cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to plastic straws using date palm leaves. Straws made from date palm leaves can help reduce plastic pollution and create a value-added product from an agro-waste material.
The idea of using date palm leaves as a raw material for straws came from the fact that the Middle East and North Africa region is the largest producer of date palm trees in the world, with millions of tonnes of waste generated every year from pruning and harvesting. The researchers sought to create a product that could address this waste problem while also providing a sustainable alternative to plastic straws.
“After extensive research, we developed a novel method for synthesising the straws from date palm leaves,” explains Md Zishan Akhter, a co-inventor of the technology. “Our synthesis method is cost-effective, non-toxic and eliminates all impurities, ensuring that the straws are 100% natural and chemical-free.”
The straw synthesis method opens up a low-cost, non-toxic technique to make straws on an industrial scale, which can be manufactured in different customised sizes, replacing not only normal lengthy straws, but also the smaller straws that are mostly used in the beverage industry.
“Another benefit of our straws is that they are 100% biodegradable, making them environmentally friendly and a safer alternative to plastic straws,” says Akhter. “We believe that the straw can be used over a wide range of industries, particularly in the food and beverage sector.”
The team comprising Dr Pranay Ranjan, Md Zishan Akhter and Jeyaganesh Devaraj has received a patent (US 11,559,157) for their invention, which they hope will encourage more companies to adopt their technology and help reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in the oceans.
“The development of biodegradable straws made from date palm leaves offers a glimmer of hope in the fight against plastic pollution. Not only are these straws environmentally friendly, but they also provide a cost-effective solution that could help to solve the global problem of plastic pollution while also creating a new value-added product from an agro-waste material,” says Akhter.
“The project aligns with the UAE government’s vision for sustainability, which aims to reduce the country’s carbon footprint and promote the use of renewable resources,” says Akhter. “We hope that our technology will help to create a more sustainable future for the UAE and beyond.”
The potential benefits of this technology are immense. It offers a sustainable alternative to plastic straws, which are non-biodegradable and contribute significantly to environmental pollution. Additionally, it provides a way to transform agro-waste material into value-added products, contributing to the circular economy and promoting sustainable development.
The success of this project underscores the importance of interdisciplinary collaborations and innovative thinking in solving complex environmental challenges. The UAE University researchers have set an example that other scientists and innovators can follow to address the issue of plastic pollution. By leveraging their expertise, researchers and innovators can help create a more sustainable future for the planet.
This is the third in a series of articles promoted by the United Arab Emirates University.