Scientists create a plastic alternative made from milk and clay

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University have figured out how to make a biodegradable foam plastic from the protein in milk and clay.

Plastics end up in landfills and our oceans. The plastics we use — and often fail to reuse or recycle — are everywhere. The problem, of course, is that some of these plastics end up in a landfill in the short-term and take hundreds of years to decompose in the long-term.

Or worse, the plastic waste could end up floating out to join the giant garbage patch in the Atlantic Ocean . Diapers at the bottom of the ocean can take 600 years to degrade — but it would take the diapers 70 million years to transform back into its original form of oil.

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University have figured out how to make a biodegradable foam plastic. The scientist mixed the protein in milk with clay. The casein protein comes from cow milk and is commonly used in adhesives and other products.

To make casein stronger, the researchers mixed it with clay and a molecule called glyceralderhyde to trigger a reaction.

Compared to the diaper that lasts for hundreds of years, the fact that some of the biodegradable foam plastic can break down in 30 days makes it a particularly attractive alternative for furniture cushions, packaging and other commercial uses, the scientists reported in the journal Biomacromolecules.

Photo: flickr/ D'Arcy Norman

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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