In Washington, the USDA announced that Agricultural Research Service scientists incorporated biodegradable sugar beet pulp, which is the leftover residue from sugar extraction, with a biodegradable polymer. The result is thermoplastic composites that retain mechanical properties similar to polystyrene and polypropylene, the compounds used to make white, spongy food packages.
Processors generate tons of sugar beet pulp annually. Finding profitable uses for it is critical for the long-term economic viability of U.S. agribusiness. The researchers demonstrated that up to 50% sugar beet pulp can be incorporated with PLA to make the new thermoplastic.