With concerns about the possible health and environmental effects of oil dispersants in the Deepwater Horizon disaster still fresh in mind, scientists have created a new dispersant made from edible ingredients that both breaks up oil slicks and keeps oil from sticking to the feathers of birds (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to these shows) And With 1.3 billion tons of food trashed, dumped in landfills and otherwise wasted around the world every year, other scientists are studying ways to change food waste into a key ingredient for making plastics, laundry detergents and scores of other everyday products.

Researcher Lisa K. Kemp says, "Each of the ingredients in our dispersant is used in common food products like peanut butter, chocolate and whipped cream. Other scientists are working on new oil dispersants and absorbents, but nothing that’s quite like ours. It not only breaks up oil but prevents the deposition of oil on birds and other objects, like the ingredients in laundry detergent keep grease from redepositing on clothing in the rinse cycle. Birds can sit in slicks of the dispersed oil, they can dive through it and take off and flap their wings, and the oil will fall off."

Meanwhile, other scientists are working on a project launched in cooperation with Starbucks that is concerned with seeking a use for spent coffee grounds and stale bakery goods. Carol S. K. Lin says, "Our new process addresses the food waste problem by turning Starbucks’ trash into treasure: detergent ingredients and bio-plastics that can be incorporated into other useful products. The strategy reduces the environmental burden of food waste, produces a potential income from this waste and is a sustainable solution.

"This concept could become very important in the future, as the world strives for greater sustainability. Using corn and other food crops for bio-based fuels and other products may not be sustainable in the long-run. Concerns exist that this approach may increase food prices and contribute to food shortages in some areas of the world."

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