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Bioplastic development means new way of sustainability on farms

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Category: research Video duration: Bioplastic development means new way of sustainability on farms
CALS assistant professor Dr. Rebecca Cockrum, and graduate student Hailey Galyon are working to develop a bioplastic from bacteria in order to replace single-use plastics on farms.
My thesis research mainly involves looking at the digestibility and safety of biopolymers if they're ever digested or ingested by ruminants. Which are basically livestock like cattle, smaller remnants like goats and sheep. Plastics are inadvertently being consumed, and unfortunately they're never digestible. And during the lifetime, even though it might not be seeing any health problems with animal has actually decreased in their production and their feed intake. Our solution is to basically develop a plastic from a bio-based material. And essentially bacteria will produce these polymers that we can isolate and develop plastic materials like hay bale nettings. We are in the process of collaborating with colleagues at the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, as well as some of our partners at William and Mary and they approached us about a biopolymer that they developed a certain blend too. And they really wanted to see if there's any agricultural applications. So as we've been digging a little deeper into this biopolymer, we're finding that is completely biodegradable. Right now we're looking into the safety of this material as well as if it's going to be comparable to current plastics. It could be used to cover crops, cover mulch. Anywhere that you see single-use plastics being used on the farm or in agriculture, this would have an application there. The way that these plastics breakdown is that you have your microbes than an environment. And when there's a limited carbon source, but you have these polymers; Essentially these bacteria are going to bind onto that polymer kind of create a biofilm around it. And it'll start producing these enzymes. It'll go in there kind of break down the little chains within it. And eventually over time, it'll just break it down into its individual like fatty acids. So, as we're seeing on the consumer level, a lot of our single use plastics being required to be reduced. We are also answering that call from the agricultural side. try and prepare for are those reductions to impact us as well. So having this bio-based plastic is essentially get rid of all that and we're going to basically reduce our carbon footprint and improve sustainability and basically set the future for us to have a better environment for everyone.