University of Idaho professor transforms poop into plastic

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by TAYLOR VIYDO & KREM.com

KREM.com

Posted on November 13, 2013 at 5:25 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 14 at 10:32 PM

MOSCOW, Idaho.--A University of Idaho professor is doing some unique and smelly research. He is looking into converting cow manure into something we use everyday.

"Well, usually there's some humor involved there. I usually have to explain to people I don't physically play with manure,” said Professor Erik Coats.

Coats research on manure could change how people use plastic. He is changing poop into plastic and already has some samples to show.

"Manure makes sense. There's a lot of carbon, there's a lot of manure. It's very concentrated. It's just the ideal waste stream for producing plastic,” said Coats.

The manure is fermented in tanks and then it is fed to bacteria that are harvested from the wastewater treatment plant according to Coats. Researchers are then able to dry the bacteria which is found in the mixture.  Coats said the bacteria in cow waste stores carbon as a polymer, which is a plastic. He is looking to putting it to use.

"Well, there's a variety of application. It's biodegradable, it’s biologically based. So really anything biodegradable, any plastic packaging, coatings,” said Coats. "It's exciting to see the research potentially get to the point where it's in the field, versus the point where it's just living in my laboratory.”

His research has received praise from national science journals. Coats told KREM 2 News he plans to continue doing more research.

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