March 3, 2024
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Binghamton researchers seek a solution to food waste

Innovative technology would turn food waste into biodegradable plastic

Food waste accounts for a quarter of waste in landfills globally. Food waste accounts for a quarter of waste in landfills globally.
Food waste accounts for a quarter of waste in landfills globally.

Two Binghamton University professors are collaborating to develop an innovative technology to reduce environmental pollution by turning food waste into biodegradable plastic. Their research recently received a $138,000 grant from New York state.

Food waste accounts for a quarter of the waste in landfills globally and it produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

Professor Sha Jin and Distinguished Professor Kaiming Ye — both Department of Biomedical Engineering faculty members at the Thomas J. Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science — are looking to curb this impact with an environmentally friendly and cost-effective solution to both food waste and the production of bioplastics.

“I noticed that New York state is leading the nation to support and fund research to address global warming, including new technologies to reduce and recycle food waste,” Jin said. “Luckily, we were able to secure that support.”

The goal of the study is to create a recycling system with no waste. Turning food waste into biodegradable plastic ensures significant reduction of greenhouse gas production. Current biodegradable plastic production relies on refined sugar substrates and pure cultures of microorganisms, making it very costly and less economically viable.

Jin’s project aims to eliminate food waste by converting it into biodegradable plastic, and to produce ecofriendly and low-cost plastic raw materials for diverse industries, such as the medical and packaging industries. Her lab will recycle food waste from restaurants, homes and supermarkets to produce plastic through fermentation.

“It’s very important to first explore this technology for scalability,” Jin said. “We’re just getting started.”