One professor at the University of Idaho is leading a team that is making strides in researching what they call "resource recovery."
"There's carbon, there's electrons, and so there's a lot of value there that's just left unrecovered," Erik Coats, associate professor of civil engineering, told KLEW News. "The idea behind the research that we conduct is, 'How do we capture value from the waste streams?'"
Coats and his team of graduate students spend much of their time at the university dairy farm. They have now found a way to turn fermented cow manure and bacteria from a local wastewater treatment plant into something useful – plastic.
The plastic resembles, what Coats calls, “a plastic baggie.”
Coats has been working on the bioplastic for nearly five years, and he believes the future looks promising, both environmentally and economically. He hopes to begin selling the technology to dairies by 2018.
The Rapid City (S.D.) Journal notes that Coats hopes that one day, this “biorenewable” plastic won’t need to end in landfills.
“On garbage day, it can be put in a recycling station, feed it to the bacteria again, and make more plastic,” Coats said.
This concept may also be a solution to the Greek yogurt industry’s acid whey disposal problem.