Solving intractable waste problems to make safer, more sustainable products

Bio Based RecyclingWhat's happening

The Polymer and Food Protection Consortium, located at Iowa State University’s BioCentury Research Farm, works with some of the largest companies in Iowa and around the world to help make their products safer and more sustainable.

The consortium’s overarching mission is to create new uses for waste materials that would otherwise be landfilled, from expanded polystyrene packaging peanuts (such as foam takeout containers) to vending machine containers, pet foods to furniture. The consortium also works with community partners, like the City of Ames, to move landfill-bound single-use plastics back into new uses and find other purposes for fly-ash from its incinerator.

The team looks at every step in the recycling and manufacturing process, from materials formulation, waste stream separation and collection, wrapping and packaging, and all the related considerations, including sanitation and food safety, shelf-life extension and odor characterization and mitigation. By helping reduce landfill costs and environmental contamination, the consortium is creating economic value and providing jobs.


  • Keith Vorst, director, Polymer and Food Protection Consortium
  • Greg Curtzwiler, assistant professor, Food Science and Human Nutrition
  • Shan Jiang, assistant professor, Materials Science and Engineering
  • Amy Vorst, program assistant, Food Science and Human Nutrition

Funders/Other Partners

  • Industry partners
  • U.S. Department of Energy
  • Department of Defense
  • Food and Drug Administration
  • USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture

Learn more about how CALS is solving intractable waste problems

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