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Agriculture at Work:

Bio plastic
Minimum
Completion Time
45 minutes

Skill Level
Intermediate
Age 11-13

Learner Outcomes
Recognizes properties
of crops make
sustainable industrial
products
Tests different
properties of plastic

Science Skills

You might have heard the question:


Paper or plastic? Why does it
matter? What is plastic made from?
What works for the environment?
Look at the plastic you use everyday. It
can be hard or soft, thick or thin, stiff or
flexible, and it comes in many colors. Today,
most plastics are made from petroleum, a
non-renewable resource. But could plastics
be made from renewable resources?

Build/construct
Compare/contrast
Observe
Predict

Do Watch this experiment online.

Life Skills

starch, 1 tsp vinegar, 4 Tbs water, aluminum foil,


cooking spoon, cooking pot. You will need a stove or
hot plate.
2. Put 1 tablespoon of cornstarch into the cooking pot.
3. Add 4 tablespoons of water.
4. Add 1 teaspoon of vinegar.
5. Add 1 teaspoon of glycerin.
6. Mix and turn the heat on medium. Stir continuously. The
mixture will turn from liquid, white mixture to clear, gellike consistency. When it bubbles, it is done! Remove
from heat.
7. Pour the gel onto the aluminum foil. Spread as thin or
thick as you like. Depending on the humidity, it might
take up to 24 hours to cool completely.
What can you do with your plastic?

Think creatively
Reason

Educational
Standards
Properties and changes
of properties in matter
Science and
technology in society
Science as a human
endeavor

Success Indicator
Tests materials
Describes the starch to
plastic process

1. Gather these materials: 1 tsp glycerin, 1 Tbs corn

Caution: Check with an adult before using the stove or a hot


plate.

Learn More

Corn to pastics
How plastic bags are
manufactured

Bioplastics from switchgrass


Turning plants into building
blocks

Virtual Fun

How plastic bags are made


How stuff works: corn plastic
Students make bioplastic
shoes

News & Careers

New potatoes for food and

feedstock
Starch-Based Biomaterials
Alliance

Whats the science?


Acknowledgements:
Robert L. Horton, PhD, Ohio
State University Extension, Carol
Warkentien and Jeanne Gogolski,
EP&P LLC
Content adapted from DuPont
(www2.dupont.com) and Pioneer
(www.pioneer.com) web pages.

Large cellulose molecules, like starch, are long chain


polymers. In this experiment, two ingredients change the
properties of the polymer plastic. By adding a small amount
of vinegar, you break up some of the polymers chains, making
the plastic less brittle. The glycerin acts as a plasticizer which
lubricates the plastic. If you want the plastic more pliable, add
more glycerin. If you want the plastic to be stiff, add less glycerin.

Records
Complete the Observation
Log

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Support for this resource was provided by:

No endorsement of a commercial entity or its products or services is intended or implied.

Name

Share

Date

What happened when you made your plastic?

RecordsIntermediate Level
Agriculture at Work: Bio plastic

Reflect

What could you do with this plastic?

Generalize

How could edible corn plastic help to solve problems in landfills?

Apply

What future uses or products can you imagine for plastic made out of corn?

The 4-H Name and Emblem is protected under 18 USC 707.


Support for this resource was provided by:

No endorsement of a commercial entity or its products or services is intended or implied.

Background
Information

Plastic
The plastic you use everyday is probably
made from a petroleum product. About
95% of all the plastic today started out as
crude oil. Over 6000 products are made
from petroleum: trash bags, sunglasses,
milk bottles, the coatings on medicine,
and much more.

What is plastic?
Plastic is made from long chains of carbon
molecules we call polymers. Different combinations
and different polymers make different kinds of
plastics.

Can polymer chains come from a


renewable resource?
Plastics made from plant sources are called
bioplastics. It all starts with photosynthesis. Plants
form sugars from carbon dioxide using the energy
of sunlight. Large cellulose molecules, like starch,
are long chain polymers. These polymers are
different than the polymers from petroleum, but
if they are mixed with the right chemicals and
cooked precisely they become plastics.

What plants can be used?


Corn is the most common plant used, but it isnt the
only one. Many plants like potatoes, soybeans and
wheat create enough starch that plastics can be
made from them. Potatoes have been developed,
for example, producing starch ideally suited to
industrial processing. Genetic modification of poplar
trees is being used to reduce the pollution created
when making wood pulp into paper. Scientists are
using biotechnology to see if the structure of plant
carbohydrates can be modified to make plastics.

More Challenges
E-Bite Coca-Colas efforts at

Glossary

sustainable packaging

polymera chain of large, single molecules (monomers) linked


together.
biodegradablethe capacity of a material to decompose
naturally over time, to be broken down by microorganisms.
bioplasticform of plastic made from renewable plant source
rather than non-renewable petrolum.

Create different recipes and compare


flexibility, color and strength.

Research the amount of petroleum

used in plastics. Which ones could be


replaced with bioplastics?

Test biodegradibilty of a sample of

corn plastic and a sample of petroleum


plastic by creating an experiment and
gathering data over time.

The 4-H Name and Emblem is protected under 18 USC 707.


Support for this resource was provided by:

No endorsement of a commercial entity or its products or services is intended or implied.

Name

Agriculture at Work: Bio plastic

Observation Log

Date

RecordsIntermediate Level
Agriculture at Work: Bio plastic

Making Plastic
Describe your plastic.
Here are some words you can use:
bioplastic
flexible
brittle
transparent
opaque
smooth
rough
thin
thick
Design and try some experiments. How can you test your plastic for ....
Flexibility?

Hardness?

Biodegradability?