Nov 9, 2010

Science Scene - Styrofoam Alternative?

Americans throw away 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam cups each year.  Styrofoam is NOT recyclable; it cannot be made into new Styrofoam.  However, there may be an alternative: biodegradable Styrofoam made from milk and clay.  Scientists at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio have successfully created an eco-friendly alternative to one of the most hazardous detriments to our planet.

Commercially viable and largely biodegradable, "Milk Styrofoam," as it is being called in the eco-blogosphere, decomposes in a month's time.  Conversely, traditional Styrofoam takes over a thousand years to decompose.  
Scientist strengthened a cow milk protein, casein, with clay and glyceraldehyde (a triose monosaccharide).  They chose casein, already popular for use in adhesives, because it is water soluble.  Alone, casein is not ideal for packaging, but mixing it with the other two ingredients and freeze drying that mixture creates an aerogel, which is then baked in an oven to create a substance comparable to traditional Styrofoam.  
Milk Styrofoam is sturdy, lightweight, and largely biodegradable.  The material is not yet mainstream as researchers are still working out practical and technological kinks.  However, different variations of the Milk Styrofoam will hopefully be used as packaging, furniture, insulation, as well as cushions.



  1. It's overused in the first place. When my new computer arrived, there was enough styrofoam to build a small village.

  2. We have stopped using anything styrofoam eons ago, but, man, it comes in everything else these days. I'm sure that when the manufacturers ship styrofoam they wrap it in styrofoam first!

  3. I'll be sure to eat off of them with utensils made from corn products!

  4. I checked "Cool" above, but will there be enough milk left over to go with our pie?

  5. Thank you for this. I had just ask my daughter yesterday if styrophoam is a recycle product. I wonder what businesses will say when I walk in with my own glass?

  6. I hate styrophoam. I'm glad you posted this topic for all to view.

    I try to go GREEN whenever possible. We have to save our earth.

    Hugs, Rose

  7. I hope this becomes mainstream. I feel so guilty when I order a drink at a fast food place, and it comes in a styrofoam cup.


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