Academic journal article Human Ecology

Biodegradable Plastics Could Replace Landfills with Compost Heaps. (Brief Reports: Economic and Social Well-Being)

Academic journal article Human Ecology

Biodegradable Plastics Could Replace Landfills with Compost Heaps. (Brief Reports: Economic and Social Well-Being)

Article excerpt

Instead of landfills clogged with computer and car parts, packaging, and a myriad of other plastic parts, a Cornell fiber scientist has a better idea--"green" composites that can be composted.

THE KEY TO THIS ECOLOGICAL, or green, solution, says Anil Netravali, a professor of fiber science in the College of Human Ecology, is fully biodegradable composites made from soybean protein and other biodegradable plastics and plant-based fibers, developed at Cornell and elsewhere.

"These fully biodegradable, environment-friendly composites could replace plastic parts in the interiors of cars and trains, in computers, packaging and other consumer products.

"Although the plant-based fibers may not be as strong as graphite and Kevlar[R], for example, "they are low in cost, biodegradable, and replenishable on a yearly basis," he says.

Netravali's findings are published in the September issue of the Journal of Materials Science. He presented his research on green composites made from ramie fibers at the International Conference on Composites Engineering in Denver two years ago and in San Diego this past summer.

Ramie fibers are obtained from the stem of an Asian perennial shrub, and the resin is made from a soy protein isolate-polymer. He did this work in collaboration with Preeti Lodha, a graduate student who received her master's degree from Cornell in 2000, and Sunghyun Nam, who completed her master's in fiber science earlier this year. …

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