Agricultural Waste: a source for new plant-base materials


After reflecting on our readings and speakers these past two weeks, I want my project to tackle the issue of agricultural waste. The term crop residues refers to the leftover materials that is produced after the harvest and manufacturing of crop into a usable resource. A few examples include: corn cobs, wheat straws, and rice hulls.

Plastic packaging aggravates me. It seems almost impossible to runaway from. This is especially true in neighborhoods of low income (where I live), where an emphasis on sustainability is almost existent. It is on everything: our food, our clothes, the ground, our water supply etc. My question is can we make natural-compostable materials from unused plant material that is generated by our food system?

The answer is yes. This has been done before: plant-based materials that are fully compostable and non-toxic. Here are a few of my favorite:

I want to bring to the table the possibility of making a biomaterial that is culturally driven. I am from the Dominican Republic, meaning I have curly hair and love to dance. Two staple ingredients in my household are: rice, plantains, and yucca. Therefore, I am curious if using a plant material that is culturally significant will draw more people in my community (and beyond) to the possibility of using a plant-based packaging alternative.

I would like to explore using rice hulls, plantain peels, and/or yucca shavings to create plant-based bowls and containers. My biggest area of research right now would be exploring the best way to extract pulp of the yucca and plantain peels as well as plant-based polymers that can act as a natural adhesive to hold the fragments in place. For example, I have an idea of making a bowl and potentially coating it in wax to help the material become more water resistant.

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