Adding Glycerine to Eco-Friendly Golf Tees to Accelerate Biodegradability and Improve Fabrication

EPA Grant Number: SU834736
Title: Adding Glycerine to Eco-Friendly Golf Tees to Accelerate Biodegradability and Improve Fabrication
Investigators: Tatara, Robert A.
Current Investigators: Tatara, Robert A. , Clarizio, Stephen , Ryan, Corey , Shanafield, John
Institution: Northern Illinois University
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2010 through August 14, 2011
Project Amount: $9,860
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2010) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Agriculture , P3 Challenge Area - Materials & Chemicals , P3 Awards , Sustainability


The ethanol-fuel industry has experienced average annual growth over 20% during recent years and overall growth has been steady the past twenty. The production of ethanol results in a by-product of the fermentation process, namely distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS). The grains are the remnants of the corn after fermentation and extraction of the ethanol. Yearly, in the United States about 30 million tons of DDGS are generated. But DDGS is a low-value (costing about 7 cents/lb) by-product and mostly used as animal feed. This has prompted agricultural producer groups to reach out to identify and develop new uses and market opportunities for surplus DDGS. One such use is as filler material in plastic products. Parallel to ethanol-based fuel, biodiesel production is another growing industry with over 2-1/2 billion gallons per year manufactured in the United States. The production of biodiesel, from soybeans, yields its own by-product of glycerine (or glycerol); every 100 pounds of biodiesel also produces 10 pounds of glycerine which is now in great surplus.

The goal is to create a novel, bio-based product featuring distillers dried grains with solubles and glycerine. DDGS and glycerine are to be blended with PLA, a bioplastic, and also with a corn-starch resin; the blends will be injection molded to develop a commercially-viable golf tee. Such a tee is expected to be better than those on the market today in terms of biodegradability and cost. Results can be applied to other sustainable products.


Injection molding involves placing a charge of plastic resin and DDGS with glycerine into the hopper of an injection molding machine. The machine’s auger turns and, with heat, mixes and melts the blend so that it can be injected into a closed mold. After the injection, the mold is cooled, opened, and the finished part(s) is removed. Injection molding is the standard method for manufacturing a wide variety of consumer products, including golf tees. The Northern Illinois University Plastics Laboratory will provide a suitable mold for the golf tees. The mold will be compatible with processing and testing equipment. Property testing will ensure minimum mechanical and physical strength of the optimal blend.

Expected Results:

It is expected that a suitable combination of DDGS and glycerine with PLA as well as a corresponding blend with corn-starch will be found. These blends will be applicable to a commercial, biodegradable golf tee with superior environmental properties, compared to what is on the market today. DDGS, up to 40%, glycerine, up to 25%, and PLA and a thermoplastic corn-starch resin will be injection molded to develop these golf tees.

Supplemental Keywords:

bio-based feed stocks, environmentally benign substitute, waste to value, renewable feedstocks,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report