Sustainable Plastics: Designing and Demonstrating Renewable, Biodegradable Products Made of Soy Protein-based Plastics

EPA Grant Number: SU833514
Title: Sustainable Plastics: Designing and Demonstrating Renewable, Biodegradable Products Made of Soy Protein-based Plastics
Investigators: Osswald, Tim , Dudley, Brandon , Eisenhardt, Scott , Ralston, Brian
Current Investigators: Osswald, Tim , Day, Travis , Knauf, Stefanie , Ralston, Brian
Institution: University of Wisconsin - Madison
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2007 through August 31, 2008
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2007) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Materials & Chemicals , P3 Awards , Sustainability


Challenge Area: Materials and Chemicals

In this project we plan to design and fabricate practical parts from renewable, biodegradable soy protein-based plastic. Plastics made from soybean protein offer a sustainable alternative to conventional fossil fuel-based plastics. Soy protein plastics are domestically grown, renewable and biodegradable, avoiding the pitfalls of landfills, incineration and fossil fuel dependence. Soy protein plastics can be processed on conventional plastic processing equipment, but the properties and processing of these plastics must be improved for broad commercial viability.

Potential applications for soy protein plastics include biodegradable containers, food service utensils, golf tees, outdoor sporting articles, trays, bottles, tampon applicators, protective tubes for nursery trees, dishware, flatware, packaging, loose fills, agricultural films and garden cell packs. To date, no known commercial products have been made with soy protein plastic.

Many of these shaped parts can be fabricated through extrusion of tubular profiles or thermoforming of extruded sheets. Specifically, tampon applicators and nursery tree tubes will be extruded, while containers, trays, dishware and garden cell packs will be thermoformed. The challenge is to screen several formulations of soy protein plastics, then produce properly shaped final products using extrusion and thermoforming.

The team will screen several formulations of soy protein plastic for processability and viscosity, mechanical properties, water resistance and biodegradation. Standard ASTM test methods will be used in data collection. Performance of different formulations will be assessed with statistical analyses. Viscosity data will be used in designing a die through which to extrude tubular profiles for tampon applicator and nursery tree tube production. Using molds we will design and build, extruded sheets of soy protein plastic will be vacuum thermoformed into usable plastic articles.

The PI and his student team will display, publicize and distribute sample soy protein plastic parts at conferences, in courses and even at a summer engineering camp, thereby bringing the possibilities of this new material to the attention of the general public.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 8 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 1 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Biopolymer,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, Sustainable Industry/Business, Environmental Chemistry, Sustainable Environment, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Chemistry and Materials Science, Chemicals Management, biodegradable plastics, alternative materials, soy protein-based plastics, biodegradable materials, thermoplastics, plastics manufacturing, pollution prevention, green chemistry

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report