How turning manure into plastic could economize one type of energy production


Dairy is a big industry in Idaho. That brings certain byproducts, including manure. Lots of manure.

While pursuing his PhD, University of Idaho civil engineering professor Erik Coats became interested in resource recovery, particularly when it comes to plastic. It turned out that pursuit dovetailed very nicely with Idaho’s wealth of manure.

“(University of) Idaho is a land grant university. Part of the land grant mission is to respond to the needs of the constituent industries and otherwise in your state,” Coats said. “I’m doing this bioplastics research. To make bioplastics, I need a lot of carbon. I need a lot of electrons. Well, they’re in manure. It works out perfectly.”

Coats’ team has now developed a process that uses bacteria to turn manure into biodegradable plastic. It can be used to create printer cartridges or plant pots that disintegrate after use.

“You go down to the nursery, you buy…

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