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Researchers look at turning cow castoffs into plastic

Published by Steve Coleman on August 15, 2011

It may give a whole new meaning to the words "car horn."

Research at the University of Alberta has discovered a way to turn cow castoffs normally sent to a land fill site during beef processing into plastic.

The University of Alberta research has been a bit of a rare breed. The post-secondary institution is the only one in the country to have Canadian Food Inspection Agency approval to conduct research that turns high-risk proteins into something useful.

Research started after mad cow disease took blood and bone out of the list of by-products that could be further used after rendering.

"If we can get more fundamental value back into the rendering process, it will help the livestock industry more than any government policy," said researcher Dave Bressler in a story on the university's web site.

Researchers have already filed a patent for the heat-based process used to turn unusable cow by-products into plastics. With the help of super-heating, the proteins are cross-linked and could become a car's dashboard if testing works out.

The Woodbridge group, a car parts manufacturer, is giving the experimental plastics a closer look to see whether or not they'll pass muster.

University researchers are also looking to see whether or not the pie-shaped cow disks will mix with renewable fibres like hemp to turn the plastic into building structural support beams.

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