PHA biopolymer debuts in drinking straws in Singapore

Singapore-based biotech start-up RWDC Industries Ltd. has launched its Solon brand of polyhydroxylalkanoate (PHA) biopolymer. Solon is reportedly an ideal material for replacing petroleum-based single-use plastic articles, including cutlery, cups, bags, plates, and bowls.

PHA-based drinking straws are the first commercial application of RWDC’s PHA biopolymer.

The first application of Solon, introduced in Singapore, is a drinking straw. The PHA resin formulated by RWDC for these straws is designed as a drop-in replacement of polypropylene that can be used on existing extrusion machines. Nonwoven fabrics and paper coating are among other potential applications.

PHAs are naturally produced by bacterial fermentation of plant-based oils or sugar, and, due to its versatility in application, are widely recognised as the world’s only commercially-viable biodegradable biopolymer according to RWDC. PHA is said to fully biodegrade within weeks with no toxic residue. “RWDC’s customers will be able to label their products as 100 percent bio-based, non-toxic and truly biodegradable,” the company says.

“There are a number of ‘compostable’ single-use plastic alternatives on the market,” says Daniel Carraway, RWDC’s Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer. “However, these materials can only be composted in well managed, commercial composting facilities that are equipped to operate with precise control systems.”

Carraway added: "PHA will be a major component in sustainable packaging materials of the future, and RWDC offers a comprehensive technical and material resource for brand owners and converters in the food service, food packaging, and consumer goods packaging industries."

Governments around the world are beginning to legislate aggressively on plastic waste. RWDC supports the initiatives of ‘Reduce, Reuse and Recycle’ but notes these steps are not enough to alter the growth trajectory of plastic waste, risking serious consequences. RWDC believes a better solution is to ‘replace’ single-use plastics with the right material, PHA — an unmodified, naturally occurring polymer that offers many of the benefits, versatility and functionality of petroleum plastic materials, while enabling a safe outcome in all potential post-consumer end of life scenarios. 

 Solon is certified by European certification authority TÜV Austria to safely biodegrade in natural environments, leaving no harmful remains or by-products. It is made from sustainably produced, renewable feedstock, is incredibly versatile, and available at a commercially viable price. RWDC Industries currently produces PHA at  2,000-tonnes/year a facility in Athens, GA, that started up in early 2019.

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