In Illinois, kitty litter that’s nearly 100 percent biodegradable can be made by processing spent grains left over from corn ethanol production. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plant physiologist Steven F. Vaughn and his colleagues have shown that litter made with these grains as the starting material may prove to be more environmentally friendly than popular but nonbiodegradable clay-based litters. After use, clay litters mostly end up in landfills.
The team’s laboratory experiments yielded a suggested formulation composed of the x-DDGs and three other compounds: glycerol, to prevent the litter from forming dust particles when poured or pawed; guar gum, to help the litter clump easily when wet; and a very small amount of copper sulfate, for odor control.
The resulting litter is highly absorbent, forms strong clumps that don’t crumble when scooped from the litter box, and provides significant odor control, according to Vaughn. He’s based at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Ill. ARS is USDA’s chief intramural scientific research agency.