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A study by two students from the University of Antwerp has concluded that sustainable alternatives to the plastic straw are not so sustainable at all. Paper straws were found to contain PFAS, a collective term for so-called poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances, the university said in a press release.

As part of their bachelor thesis, Pauline Boisacq and Maarten De Keuster, two biology bachelor students from the University of Antwerp, conducted research into what extent poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are present in drinking straws that are made of different materials available on the Belgian market. This research project was supervised by Dr. Thimo Groffen of the ECOSPHERE research group, who has years of expertise in PFAS analyses.

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“The motivation for our research was a study from the US, which showed that straws made from plant-based materials often contain PFAS,” says Groffen. “However, concentrations and compositions differed depending on the material and brand, so it was unclear whether these results would be the same for Belgium.”

This research topic and the well-defined experiment format lent themselves perfectly to an undergraduate thesis for the biology degree program, according to Els Prinsen, the faculty lecturer of this course module. “In addition to straws made of plant-based materials, such as paper and bamboo, we also examined whether PFAS is present in straws made of glass, stainless steel and plastic.”

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