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New Process To Make Plastic From Cornstarch Moves Forward

May 6, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A new process to make biodegradable plastic from cornstarch has taken a major step toward commercial development, the Agriculture Department said Wednesday.

Agri-Tech Industries Inc., of Gibson City, Ill., was granted a license from the National Technical Information Service, a Commerce Department agency, allowing the company to further develop the process - patented by USDA - for using cornstarch in the manufacture of plastic.

The license also allows Agri-Tech to market uses of these processes to other firms, officials said. The company hopes to have a fast-degrading cornstarch plastic resin ready for commercial manufacture within a year.

Andrew M. Cowan, industrial development officer at the department’s Northern Research Center, Peoria, Ill., said Agri-Tech’s further development could lead to many new uses for corn as a raw material for manufactured goods.

The process was developed at the Peoria center by chemists Felix H. Otey and Richard P. Westhoff of the department’s Agricultural Research Service.

Don Fisk, president of Agri-Tech, said in a statement released here by the agency that the resin, 40 percent to 50 percent cornstarch, could partially replace petroleum-based chemicals used in polyethylene products such as trash can liners. Eventually, starch-plastic products could include packaging for fast foods and mulches for nurseries and home gardens, he said.

″We need to make the process more economical, and we think we can do that,″ he said.

Fisk said the plastic resin work will be done at a pilot plant at the University of Illinois, Urbana, through a university program to help encourage new industry in the state. An estimated $250,000 in financing over two years will come from Illinois corn farmers through the Illinois Corn Marketing Board.

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