Summary: Consider how many coffee cups, cup sleeves, plates and other disposable
food containers you use in a week, a month or a year. Where do they go?
Millions of tons of waste are generated from such disposable products. Many
of them are made from materials that don't decompose well, like plastics and
Meanwhile, a drive in the country after harvest in any of the Prairie provinces
shows how much crop material is left over. Many of the crop residues can
be tilled into the soil or used for a variety of purposes, but one in particular,
flax straw, is especially difficult to incorporate into the soil. With nearly 2
million acres of flax seeded annually, about a million tons of this tough, fibery
straw remains after harvest. In Saskatchewan, the majority of the flax straw is
bunched and burned.
Dr. Denise Stilling of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science has
been leading the research and development to transform this crop residue into
value-added products. One innovation is the development of biodegradable
dinnerware such as plates, trays, coffee sleeves and other food containers.
"The goal of this research is to be sustainable," says Stilling. "Developing
products that meet our demands for convenience with throw-away products
that are not harmful to the environment and are compostable is an adaptive
solution to our accumulating waste problem."