Plastic made from pig urine

Denmark's Agroplast has an idea for making bioplastics in which the feedstock is really, really cheap. Pig urine is particularly interesting because it's an environmental hazard.

Denmark-based Agroplast wants to transform pig urine into plastic dinnerware and household items.

We all have to have dreams, I suppose.

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The company has essentially devised a way to better commercialize urea, a compound of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen, found in urine.

Other animal waste products like manure can be inserted into the system, but pig urine is particularly interesting because it is an environmental hazard, says Peter Tøttrup, a partner at Seed Capital, a Danish venture firm that also helps the government incubate start-ups. We ran into Tøttrup at the coffee urn at the NordicGreen conference in Menlo Park, Calif., this week.

"There are 20 million pigs in Denmark, and what they do environmentally is a problem," he said.

Transforming farm waste into plastic precursors is potentially attractive over other bioplastic ideas because the feedstock effectively has no value. In fact, it has negative value because animal waste must be disposed, which costs money. Some other bioplastic companies make their resins out of corn starch.

Tøttrup claims that the process could, conceivably, result in plastics that cost a third less than conventional plastics made from fossil fuels. That's a big conceivably. Traditionally, bioplastics made of vegetable matter have cost more than fossil fuel plastics. Evaluation of the pricing will have to wait until large volumes of this stuff are made. Agroplast is going into a pilot study now, Tøttrup said.

Agroplast says its farm-friendly chemicals have other uses too. They can be used as fertilizers, as an ingredient in lotions, and "as a flavor enhancer in cigarettes," according to the company's Web site.

That puts a new spin on the good, clean taste of Kools.

 

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