December 28, 2022

$9.5 million USDA investment funds 3 bioproduct manufacturing projects

A new $9.5 million federal investment will support the scale-up of sustainable bioproduct manufacturing in the U.S. The U.S. Department of Agriculture funded three projects, including one at Virginia Tech that aims to convert food waste into biodegradable plastic.

The funding, through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Bioproduct pilot program, is by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, seeks to spur economic activity in rural areas while lowering commercialization risks associated with bringing biobased products to market.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture funded three projects, including one at Virginia Tech that aims to convert food waste into biodegradable plastic. Photo: File

The program accelerates USDA’s efforts to develop circular bioeconomies, where agricultural resources are harvested, consumed, and regenerated in a sustainable manner.

The Virginia Tech project proposes to convert food waste into biodegradable, polyhydroxyalkanoate-based bioplastics that can be used for a variety of consumer plastics, including flexible and rigid packaging and containers for food and beverages.

“Adopting a more circular economy ensures that wealth and other economic benefits in the form of jobs and other opportunities are created, and stay, in rural communities,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “We must support and incentivize practices like these, because it’s what consumers want — and what farmers, and our planet, need.”

Other awardees are:

  • University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, for a project that proposes to convert swine manure and other organic feedstocks into biobinders for asphalt that increase the quality of recycled asphalt pavements. If commercialized, benefits include reduced landfill waste, reduced disposal costs for asphalt and food waste, and low-cost products.
  • Soylei Innovations, of Ames, Iowa, for a project that proposes to transform high oleic soybean oil into thermoplastic rubber for pavements, which has the potential to extend repair longevity for existing surfaces. Low-cost paving solutions are particularly important in rural and underserved communities where road paving and maintenance budgets are underfunded due to a reliance on local tax revenues.

“Each of the recommended projects includes collaborations with universities and companies that can bridge the gap between invention and the marketplace as well as produce stronger and more effective outcomes,” said Dr. Dionne Toombs, acting director of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. “All three of them also have compelling benefits that advance environmental justice and spur economic opportunity for underserved communities.”




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