Biodegradable Straws

Various types of Biodegradable materials have been formulated by various companies during the last 15 years or so to comply with certain certifications. These materials remain to some degree in their infancy and certifications periodically change. The following explanations should be considered a primer on the subject with hyperlinks to allow easy access to various certifications. It should also be noted that most certifications are made testing very thin samples of each type of product, which may or may not include wall thicknesses of straws. Therefore, a straw, or other product, could be “made of certified home compostable material”, for instance, but the actual product not be able to be certified due to wall thickness.

Commercially Compostable Material:

These products will fully degrade in a commercial composting facility leaving only CO2, H2O and biomass. These facilities use the ideal conditions for composting which include regular turning, a temperature between 105-140 degrees Fahrenheit, correct moisture (humidity) levels, correct levels of microbes PPM, and plenty of air flow. The materials must be able to decompose in 84 days, under 6 inches of soil, to meet ASTM6400 certification or EN13432 (60o C) specifications. Current estimates are that there are only about 5,200 commercial composting facilities in the U.S. Many commercially compostable items are manufactured using PLA, or Polylactic Acid, while other versions are under development. SELA is testing materials for a possible introduction of a commercially compostable straw. It is important that products sold as being commercially compostable are in fact able to decompose in 84 days as the facility receiving the products for degradation expect them to be fully degraded in 84 days. Uses of commercially compostable items would be relegated to large venues such as stadiums where the food service products could be packed up and trucked to a commercial composting facility for disposal instead of landfilling.

Home Compostable Material:

Describes a product that can be organically broken down into compost in a local compost pile, community or at home, within one year or broken down when buried in dirt in two years. The key difference is that products that can degrade in a home compost pile, or in the dirt, degrade at much lower temperatures than products that are considered commercially compostable. To be certified home compostable a product must meet EN13432 (25o C) standards. SELA is testing materials for a possible introduction of a home compostable straw.
This is the type of biodegradable straw SELA is concentrating on from an environmentally friendly approach because SELA understands that products should be introduced for everyday use by everyday people who can feel good with the knowledge that if a straw does get thrown out instead of properly disposed of after it is no longer needed, that it WILL eventually degrade under most circumstances, but an exact timeline may not be possible due to wall thickness to make the straw fully functional along with soil type it lands in, temperature, humidity, etc which is beyond SELA’s control. Please note, oxygen IS required for decomposition. Even if the straw is not covered in soil, sunlight UV rays will also help decomposition. IT WILL DECOMPOSE.

Marine Degradable Material:

Products are marine degradable when they can break down into natural materials within a marine environment. Currently, certifications for end use will probably only encompass items that belong in the water like fishing lines, fishing nets, etc and will not include straws or cups.
****SELA knows of no biodegradable cigarette butts under current development.******

Click here for Technical Documents and Certifications