Eco-Friendly Golf Tees Filled with Corn-Based DDGS

EPA Grant Number: SU833516
Title: Eco-Friendly Golf Tees Filled with Corn-Based DDGS
Investigators: Tatara, Robert A.
Current Investigators: Tatara, Robert A. , DiOrio, Nicholas R. , Ziemer, Norbert L.
Institution: Northern Illinois University
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2007 through August 31, 2008
Project Amount: $9,933
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


The ethanol industry in the United States currently produces approximately 10,000,000 tons of corn processing co-products, namely distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS). The primary use of DDGS to date has been in animal feed applications. However, there are limits to the dietary intake by livestock based on nutritional requirements. Simultaneously, the ethanol industry has experienced record growth, with annual production volumes increasing by an average of over 20% over the past four years and greater than 10% over the past 20 years. Therefore, there is a need to find alternate uses and new market channels for ethanol-derived DDGS. Much of this push has been to transport the co-products long distances via containers and ocean liners, while some have explored combustion applications for heat and power.


One potential new use for DDGS is as a higher value industrial material integral in the manufacturing of increasingly biodegradable (green) products based on plastics that can be molded into a vast array of consumer products. Many plastic products today leverage low-cost materials as fillers to reduce the material cost of production. These fillers are often derived from natural products like wood and reduce the amount of petroleum resins required to produce plastic products. The distillers grains are available at less than 10% of the cost of typical petroleum derived resin and may be able to be used in proportions greater that 1/3 of the total feedstock input by weight. Previous testing at Northern Illinois University has established the feasibility of introducing the DDGS as biofillers in ratios as high as –and perhaps even greater than- 33.3%.


This project enhances P3 sustainability by providing alternative, higher value utilization for DDGS. Such technology could reduce the amount of resin, manufactured from petroleum raw materials, in plastic products. Thus the planet’s oil reserves can be conserved and the amount of petroleum-based plastic disposed of, at the end of the product’s useful life, is reduced. An additional benefit of such a biofiller material would be to increase the biodegradability of the plastic with the potential of creating a “greener” plastic. Overall, this work impacts P3 sustainability on a global level by minimizing the environmental impact of plastic products while lowering costs and conserving non-renewable resources. This investigation will examine the usability of the DDGS within plastic products and the examination of the role of DDGS as a filler/extender and any other value added by the DDGS.

Expected Results:

The ultimate result of this proposed study shall be a biodegradable golf tee using a DDGS/plastic blend. DDGS as a filler represents a cost-reducing opportunity to supercede existing unfilled biodegradable golf tees in the market. This represents a practical and useful example of a product that could be commercialized.

Supplemental Keywords:

green chemistry, waste reduction, waste minimization, environmentally conscious manufacturing, biomaterials, biofillers, biobased plastics, green plastics, biodegradability, biocomposites, plastics technology, sustainability, renewability,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report