AMES, Iowa – Petroleum-based paraffin wax commonly coats cardboard and all sorts of other products to improve durability and water resistance, but it can’t be recycled and may adversely affect human health. So researchers at Iowa State University are developing wax from soybean oil that would share many properties of paraffin wax but would also be biodegradable.
The research could benefit the environment by reducing the roughly 3 billion pounds of paraffin-coated boxes that end up in landfills every year. The research also could lead to new markets for soybeans at a time when global trade tensions are roiling grain markets, said Tong Wang, a professor of food science and human nutrition who leads the research. Wang and her team have filed two patents related to their soybean oil products and recently received a $90,000 continuation grant from the United Soybean Board to develop new applications for the technology.