AMES -- Iowa State University researchers and biodiesel producers are participating in a federal project to turn plastic trash from military bases into fuel.
The project, funded this year with $1.65 million in federal money, could save $12 million annually in military waste disposal costs, said Rep. Tom Latham, the Iowa Republican who helped secure the funds.
"We have the greatest opportunity I've seen in my lifetime, today in Iowa, to be part of a solution, and that is to reduce our need for importing oil from overseas," Latham said. "There are huge concerns we all have about plastics going into our waste sites."
The research can change the way plastic is disposed, said Balaji Narasimhan, an Iowa State University associate dean of research and economic development.
General Atomics, based in San Diego, is the project's lead contractor. Renewable Energy Group Inc., a biodiesel producer and marketer in Ames, and ISU researchers will contribute to the project.
Mitch Zafer of General Atomics said temporary military bases -- where the technology will most likely first appear -- produce 3,200 pounds of garbage every five days. About 330 pounds of that is plastic.The technology would use the plastic trash to help make diesel fuel to be used at camp, Zafer said.