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Waste into Plastic

June 7, 2010

Scientists have developed a way to turn municipal waste into biodegradable plastic.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
Environmentally friendly plastic…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Most plastic is manufactured from petroleum products, and it often ends up polluting the environment. But now, researchers have developed a way to transform municipal waste into clean, environmentally friendly plastics. Chemical engineer Ryan Smith of Micromidas, Inc. or Sacramento, California, says microorganisms are the key to the process.

RYAN SMITH (Micromidas, Inc.):
They actually convert the carbon in the waste, they store little granules of biodegradable plastic in their body, and we harvest these cells and pull the plastic out and actually use it for processing and turn it into containers.

HIRSHON:
He says products made from the material are completely safe for consumer use. And he’s hopeful that the new plastic will one day replace the more polluting kind.

SMITH:
If our plastic ends up in the ocean, it just sinks and degrades within about a year.

HIRSHON:
I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.