Scientists at the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry are developing a way to add wood fiber to plastic to make it stronger. The process extracts nanocrystals of cellulose out of woody materials such as trees and willow shrubs and mixes them with the plastic. The result is a strong, lightweight plastic that will degrade in a landfill.
“By adding an ounce of crystals to a pound of plastic, you can increase the strength of the plastic by a factor of 3,000,” says William Winter, chemistry professor and director of the college’s Cellulose Research Institute. “And in the end, in a landfill, it’s just carbon dioxide and water, which can be taken up and made into more biomass.”