New Type of Styrofoam is Biodegradable

Styrofoam lasts a very long time and is thus a large problem for the environment, yet people still like cups so what are we to do? The answer is to make those drink holders out of milk and clay!

The research began with an accidental discovery in the lab. One of Schiraldi’s students freeze-dried clay and got something intriguing enough to warrant a closer look. So, the team started mixing the clay with a variety of materials.

When they added a cow’s milk protein called casein, they ended up with a super-light, fluffy, and foam-like material. With further experimentation, they hit on a recipe that worked well enough for publication in the journal Biomacromolecules.

“The process,” Schiraldi said, “is simplicity itself.”

The researchers start by throwing a scoop of clay and some water into a kitchen blender. Two minutes of mixing produces what Schiraldi’s students call a clay smoothie.

Next, they add some casein powder, a dried version of the most common protein in milk. The final ingredient is a tiny amount of a glycerol-based material, which basically stiffens up the solution’s chemical bonds.

After running the blender one last time, the scientists pour the dirty-looking water into molds and freeze them like ice-cubes. Then, they freeze-dry it get all the water out.

The result, Schiraldi said, is a material that has all the same properties of Styrofoam, but is 98 percent bio-based. At 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit), the milk-containing foam lets out a few drops of water. But it stays sturdy up to 200 degrees Celsius (392 degrees Fahrenheit).

In tests conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, close to a third of the new material broke down after about 45 days in industrial compost conditions. That’s a huge environmental leap beyond Styrofoam and other types of Expanded Polystyrene Foam, a category of materials that is often used as disposable packaging for electronics and other products.

“Compared to expanded polystyrene foam, we’re in a different league,” Schiraldi said. “Styrofoam lives forever.”

Read the rest at Discovery News

Bioplastics Making a Comeback

In order to make this post understandable to 210 million people, this needs to be said: plastic is made from oil.

Petroleum based plastics take forever to biodegrade whereas soy based plastics biodegrade a lot faster – thus making bioplastics friendly to our planet. The International Herald Tribune has a good article outlining the benefits of bioplastics and the current state of the industry.

Apparently Henry Ford loved soybeans! Maybe he knew that oil was a limited resource our something crazy like that 😉

Much of the early research on bioplastics was supported by Henry Ford, who believed strongly in the potential of the soybean. One famous 1941 photo shows Ford swinging an ax head into the rear of a car to demonstrate the strength of the soy-based biocomposite used to make the auto body. But soy quickly lost out to petrochemical plastics.

“In those days you had a lot more oil around,” Tao said. “You didn’t have to wait until the growing season.”

Eco-Coffins for the Eco-Dead

Plan on dying some time? Well, now you don’t have to take the planet with you; instead you can help the planet on your way out. You can use:

A coffin made from recycled paper

Ecopod is a revolutionary design in coffins made from naturally hardened, 100% recycled paper. The time and consideration gone into the concept and design of the Ecopod we feel has culminated in a product with much to offer.
Made from 100% ecologically sound materials the Ecopod is the ideal product for a non toxic burial or cremation. Perfect for use in greenfield sites.

A coffin made out of cardboard

They are made from cardboard, but are unlike any other cardboard coffin on the market. Made from 90% recycled material, a rigid honeycomb construction provides strength and stability whilst being 100% biodegradable. Our product has been tested at crematoria and at traditional burial sites and are suitable for both

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