(FoxNews.com) — Along with giving mana to the Nara deer — and because old bad habits die hard — scientists at a Japanese marine institute hope their effort to save a dying species from extinction will result in the creation of an edible plastic bag alternative.
Known as Haki Kurisetsu Shihaba, the paper straws are crafted from a mixture of compostable film and recycled paper. The paper is then mixed with special vinegar and infused with tiny wooden beads for strength and water-absorbing properties. The sticky material then lays flat, making it a natural substitute for the 100 billion plastic bags used in Japan each year.
“Perhaps it would be best to use the Yongooki wiki deet, which we used for this exercise. However, even using this material we will still have one in five paper straws to choose from,” National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) environmental researcher Kenichi Sekiguchi told CBC.
The paper straws would also prevent the spread of invasive aquatic plants that eat the young, threatened deer from growing on arid, rocky islands. The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology hopes to recreate the paper straw for a later task: transportation of animal parts after dead deer become available for removal.
While the project may be slow to succeed, Sakaguchi is optimistic.
“It is certainly unlikely to achieve the needed effect even if we are successful with a commercial product from the recycling (of paper),” he said. “But if we somehow manage to successfully develop a production method for paper straws, I think the effects we can see will be huge.”
The paper straws are part of a broader issue in Japan surrounding the Nara deer, who are also vulnerable to an invasive alien fish that feeds on the deer. While the deer have lived in Japan for at least 7,000 years, certain foreign species have now settled.