AMES, Iowa – Keith Vorst is trying to convince the world there’s value in something much of humanity considers utterly disposable.
Human beings discard hundreds of millions of tons of plastic every year, and much of it ends up in landfills where it may take centuries to decompose. Or, worse, plastics find their way into rivers and streams and eventually into the Earth’s oceans, accumulating into giant garbage patches. Only a fraction of all that plastic gets recycled.
But Vorst, an associate professor of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University, insists there’s a better way. Vorst leads the Polymer and Food Protection Consortium at Iowa State, and he works with some of the world’s best-known corporations to find new uses for recycled plastics that both add value to products and save money.
“We want to take junk out of landfills and turn it into a valuable resource,” Vorst said. “We’re creating technologies that will have companies mining landfills and the oceans for plastic.”