The biodegradable straw - Investigating how enzymes can be used to enhance desired product qualities of drinking devices.

University essay from Lunds universitet/Produktutveckling

Abstract: The increasing production of single-use plastics negatively affects the climate. The resulting plastic ocean debris has fatal consequences to marine life. As a result, the European Parliament has placed a ban on single-use plastics by 2021, making it essential to study sustainable materials for single-use products such as straws. Previous research has investigated how enzymes can be used to catalyse reactions in food processing. However, little research has explored the use of enzymes to biodegrade the material of single-use straws or drinking devices. This thesis aims to investigate how different designs and material combinations using enzymes can enhance both the environmental profile and user experience of drinking devices. Interviews with 24 experts at Tetra Pak Packaging Solutions AB and the Division of Biotechnology at Lund University were conducted to gain insights into industry needs and material development. Moreover, a questionnaire based on Kano Analysis was performed to study consumer preferences regarding features of drinking devices. Statistical methods were used to analyse the results from the 308 respondents and target specifications were established for the product development. Based on a literature study, interviews and consumer preferences, multiple material combinations and designs were developed and evaluated. The final recommendation is a fibre-based drinking device with a PHB surface treatment with encapsulated enzyme. The purpose of surface treatment is to improve the moisture resistance and mouthfeeling. Furthermore, the role of the enzyme is to increase the biodegradation rate of the PHB. The suggested design is an ergonomically shaped mouthpiece for increased stability and control, reducing potential spilling. A theoretical multiple linear regression model is developed as a proposal for evaluating the biodegradation of the bioplastic surface treatment. Further experimental testing is needed with the material combination, prototyping of the final product design as well as the theoretical biodegradation model.

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