Creating biodegradable plastics

Associate Professor Igor Luzinov, a polymer chemist in Clemson University’s School of Materials Science and Engineering, leads a team that is working to make plastics from animal co-products.

The researchers have been successful in creating biodegradable plastics from feathers and blood and have created prototype products such as golf tees. Now they are working to increase the strength and to make the plastics more “mechanically robust.” The team will explore adding biodegradable fibers and other means to increase strength of the polymers.

Dr. Luzinov and his team also are investigating the use of other animal co-product materials, including meat and bone meal, for making biodegradable plastics. They recognize that use of rendered proteins as a new generation of biodegradable plastics could become a huge market for millions of tons of materials. In addition, polymer precursors are often worth thousands of dollars per ton.