PITTSBURG, Kans. — While useful, plastic can often be harmful for the environment. Things like straws, bags, or bottles can take decades, if not centuries, to break down.

This has led researchers to look for a solution to lessen this impact. One of which can be found right here in the Four States.

“Plastics really has a bad name right now and there’s some reason for that. We do have some problems to be addressed and that’s what we’re doing at the Polymer Research Center,” said Dr. Tim Dawsey, KPRC Director.

Pittsburg State University will soon be the site of the newest renewable material. The school has entered into a partnership with the University of Kansas and Delaware to create plastics out of biomass.

“Basically, any material that is coming from the renewable resources such as vegetable oils or fruit oils or anything that is coming from the agriculture land,” said Dr. Ram Gupta, Assoc. Professor of Chemistry.

The base of the plastic, or monomer, is currently being constructed but will eventually make its way to the Kansas Polymer Research Center.

PSU students observe a monitor showing a magnified view of their project

“We’re taking the raw materials that they’re developing, and then we are hooking those together to get these long chains that are called polymers,” said Dr. Dawsey.

“And then we will be testing those materials to make sure it is meeting the standard of industrial product. It’ll be like waste management and using this waste material for a useful product also,” added Dr. Gupta.

This environmentally friendly plastic could then be used in items we use everyday.

“Whether it’s soft-drink bottles, whether it’s waste bags, whatever we need to make out of those,” said Dr. Dawsey.

While helping further the area’s economic development.

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“The other thing is the opportunity here to create jobs in the Four States region, and that’s what we’re really looking at. Particularly in this region we’re planning a lot. Right now, our projections are we are wanting over the next 10 years is to add 200 new jobs and $1,000,000 of capital investment.”