The united states navy may soon have a new way to handle dirty dishes: Grind them up, toss them overboard, and let the fish eat them.
Thanks to research by Jay-lin Jane, a food science professor at Iowa State University in Ames, a safe, biodegradable (and fish-nutritious) form of plastic has been developed. It's now being tested by the Navy, which is under orders to cut down on pollution at sea.
Regular plastic is made out of nonrenewable natural gas and oil. It doesn't biodegrade (break down) very fast. But Dr. Jane's edible plastic is made from completely biodegradable soybean proteins. Soybeans are a renewable resource.
Dr. Jane is not the first to succeed in making durable materials from soybeans. George Washington Carver, the man who worked to find so many uses for peanuts, also experimented with soybeans. And during oil shortages in World War II, the Ford Motor Company developed a soy-based plastic it used to make steering wheels and other parts. (A fire destroyed Ford's research.)
The soybeans are specially processed and shaped into sheets of plastic-like material. This can then be formed into shapes, and even flavored and colored. Jane and other researchers have already created edible spoons and golf tees.
Other products, such as disposable ID badges, fast-food packaging, and paper-bag liners are also under consideration.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society