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Peoria Ag Lab Scientists Cooking Up Biodegradable Plastic

Scientists at Peoria's Ag Lab are making strides on developing a new biodegradable plastic.WCBU News Director Tim Shelley interviews Atanu Biswas, a chemist at Peoria's Ag Lab.

Atanu Biswas is a USDA chemist. His team is using what's essentially a slight alteration of the conventional microwave oven to "cook up" biobased plastics sourced from corn, soybeans, and other crops.

"We will be using microwave technology to make things happen much faster, and yet a much cleaner product and environmentally friendly," he said.

It's an alternative to traditional petroleum-based plastics, which take centuries to decompose and can be expensive to recycle.

"Consumers are intrinsically interested in alternative biosolutions, which we are trying to provide," said Biswas.

The bioplastic also offers potential new uses for corn starch, soy oil, and cellulose.

Biswas recently won a Fulbright scholarship, which will allow him to collaborate on his research with Brazilian scientists.

He said while the bioplastic is not yet ready for industrial mass production, it has produced good lab results, and should be marketable in the near future. It could potentially be used for things like plastic shopping bags, Biswas said.

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Tim Shelley is the Assignment Editor and Digital Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.
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