Gregory Glenn prepares to make wheat-starch biodegradable containers. Click
the image for more information about it.
story to find out more.
Carry-Out Containers From Wheat? Yes!
September 3, 2004
Lightweight, biodegradable containers for taking home your
fast-food meal or leftovers from your restaurant dinner can be made with wheat
starch, ARS scientists have shown. So,
too, can cups, bowls and plates. Here's the plus: Because they're
biodegradable, all of these foodservice items offer a more environmentally
friendly option than today's petroleum-based, polystyrene foam products.
Plant physiologist Gregory M. Glenn of the ARS
Western Regional Research Center in
Albany, Calif., is working with EarthShell
Corp., the Santa Barbara, Calif., innovator of potato-starch-based
foodservice products, to fine-tune manufacturing of the wheat-starch
Glenn's research has proven that the biodegradable products are
just as attractive, sturdy, convenient to use and leakproof as their
polystyrene counterparts. But, because they biodegrade easily, the starch-based
disposables lessen the burden on America's already overstuffed landfills.
Having a selection of different starchessuch as wheat,
potato or cornto choose from gives manufacturers of biodegradable
products some purchasing flexibility. That flexibility can help them keep their
prices competitive with polystyrene items.
The wheat-based containers can be made in presses or molds that
work something like a giant waffle iron. The process begins with pouring the
wheat-starch batter onto the heated mold, which is then closed and locked.
Moisture in the batter generates steam that, in turn, causes the batter to
foam, expand, and fill the mold. The steam is vented and, when the 'baking' is
finished, the mold is opened, the product is removed and the cycle starts
The entire process takes less than a minute. A water-resistant
film, added later, helps the container keep its strength and shape.
Glenn's research is
in the September issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.
Glenn and colleague William J. Orts, also of the Western
Regional Research Center, recently won a USDA Honor Awardone of the
department's highest honors--for their innovative research with biodegradable