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Byproducts are materials left over from food production. They are produced at farms or when food is processed. Byproducts are not the primary goal of the agricultural system, but can be just as important.

Byproducts are important for reducing food waste, recycling, and creating new products. Scientists and farmers are always looking for ways to use materials left over from food production to make other products such as bioplastics.

A grouping of plastic cutlery that has been arranged neatly sits on a countertop.

This cutlery is made from plant-based plastics.


Bioplastics are items made from natural sources such as corn, pea and potato starch, vegetable fats and oils, straw, woodchips, food waste, and animal fats and oils. Bioplastics can be used to replace petroleum-based (fossil fuel) plastics which are commonly used today. Some examples of items made with bioplastics include yogurt containers, straws, and disposable utensils.

An illustrated scientist holds up a small test tube in front of his face.

Scientists are working hard to create bioplastics that break down much faster and easier than plastics from fossil fuels which have been used for decades.

An illustration shows the steps of where some bioplastics come from and what they are made into. Ag-based materials, lingo-cellulosic materials, and organic waste materials are taken to a biorefinery and made into clothes, electronics, water bottles, toys, and sports equipment.

This graph shows where some bioplastics come from and what they are made into!

Petroleum-based plastic products are made with the same petroleum oil used to fuel vehicles. These plastics can take thousands of years to decompose and are littering environments around the globe.

A person cleans up thousands of pieces of litter in an open area that has a city skyline in the background.

Plastics take years to decompose and end up as litter around the world!

Plastic pollution makes up 60-95% of the debris in the ocean. 

Some bioplastics are biodegradable and decompose within a few months. Currently, industrial composters are needed to take care of non-biodegradable plastics though. Bioplastics can be used to make containers and packaging, plates, utensils, and more. There are many scientists, engineers, and others developing this type of plastic to make sure it is more environmentally friendly and low cost for everyday use.

An illustrated green plastic bottle is shown with plants inside of it.

The bioplastics that are being created now are more environmentally friendly.

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An illustrated see-through plastic bag is full of vegetables and has the words ‘100% biodegradable’ on the outside.

Some of the products that are made with bioplastics may look the same, but they are much better for the planet!