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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Emerging Science Note/Watch Your Step!

Air Date: Week of March 16, 2007

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Watch your step! (Courtesy of USDA)

Living on Earth’s Paige Doughty reports on the prospects of turning cow manure into flooring.

Transcript

CURWOOD: If you’ve detected a greening of the American mind recently well, a new poll says you’re right. That story’s just ahead on Living on Earth. But first, here’s this week’s note on emerging science, from Paige Doughty.

[SOUND OF COW MOOING]

DOUGHTY: Whoa! Watch your step there, you don’t want to put your foot on that! Or do you?

[THEME MUSIC]

If scientists at Michigan State University have their way you may be walking on floors made of cow manure.

The researchers are calling the new, or, perhaps I should say used, material, “digester fiber.” They’ve combined animal waste with plastic by applying heat and pressure to create the fiberboard. Two prototypes were tested and compared with similar composite products that use wood fiber and plastic. The tests so far show the digester fiberboard equals or surpasses industry standards for strength and stiffness.


Watch your step! (Courtesy of USDA)

There’s a surplus of animal waste in the United States; livestock on U.S. farms produce enough manure every year to fill a convoy of trucks stretching from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. Farmers’ traditionally use manure as a fertilizer to replenish nitrogen in the soil, but as industrialized agriculture has grown there’s too much manure and not enough land to fertilize.

The Michigan scientists hope the manure flooring will become one way to sustainably manage waste.

And you don’t have to worry about the smell, the digester fiber flooring is odorless; and the material is cheap to produce.

Now that’s a piece of cow pie you might want to buy!

That’s this week’s note on emerging science, I’m Paige Doughty.

[Sound of Cow Mooing]

 

 

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