WIST is an institute within the College of Natural Resources at UW-Stevens Point

WIST  News
February 2014
In This Issue
PLA recycling commercialization
WIST student researcher
Life Cycle Assessment course upcoming
John Baldus attending Sustainability in Packaging Conference
Research, Education, and Laboratory Services

pilot paper machine 




WIST provides laboratory services, research and education to create sustainability solutions for businesses and organizations. Technology and ideas developed by WIST and its partners will spur economic growth in Wisconsin and the region and help all of us preserve a healthy environment for future generations.

Follow-up Links


Annual Report October 2013 


Commercialization of recycled PLA is project goal


A method to recycle bioplastic foodservice items that now typically end up in landfills will be commercialized through a project now underway by Interfacial Solutions of River Falls, WI, and WIST.


Polylactic acid, or PLA, is a bioplastic used to make the clear cups and other items used, for example, in dining services. Although PLA is compostable, a lack of industrial composting facilities in the U.S. means this end-of-life solution is rarely used. And currently PLA is not recycled because it loses mechanical properties and quality during reprocessing. However, Interfacial Solutions has developed a proprietary process that converts scrap PLA to "hyperbranched" PLA polymers with mechanical and processing qualities better than virgin PLA.


PLA sorting
Students sort plastic from UW-Stevens Point dining services. WIST provided post-consumer PLA for Phase I of  the NSF-grant funded project, and is performing a life cycle assessment in Phase II.

The project is funded by a National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research Phase II Grant (SBIR). The NSF program promotes economic development by helping companies bring new processes and products to market. Interfacial Solutions proved its hyperbranching process in work funded under a Phase I SBIR grant, successfully converting poor-quality, scrap PLA to high-quality resin using its proprietary process.


In this second phase, the company will address several hurdles that must be cleared to make the process commercially viable. Objectives include development of a prescreening process for scrap PLA feedstocks, which can vary in composition and properties, and a scale-up of the production process for high-scale manufacturing. As part of the Phase II project, WIST will work with Interfacial Solutions to provide a life cycle assessment in order to understand the full impact of recycled PLA on product sustainability. Specifically, the LCA will compare the environmental impact of the use of pre- and post-consumer PLA with the use of other durable plastic materials such as PVC. That will enable purchasers of recycled PLA products to evaluate sustainability in their own products using these materials.


The project is expected to be completed within two years.

WIST student research assistant presenting at "Posters in the Rotunda"
Sam Knapp
We want to congratulate Sam Knapp, a UW-Stevens Point student from Iron River, WI, on being selected to present his research at the 11th annual Posters in the Rotunda, March 12 at the Capitol.
Posters in the Rotunda is an annual event that recognizes outstanding undergraduate student research from throughout the UW System. Knapp is a senior with majors in physics and chemistry and a minor in biology. He plans to graduate in May and intends to go to graduate school in chemical engineering.
Knapp worked with WIST Director of Research Eric Singsaas. His work is summarized in the opening sentences of his abstract:
"As student interest in sustainability and renewable energy technology increases, public teaching institutions feel increasing pressure to offer coursework exposing students to these emerging fields. Universities and high schools, however, face ever tightening budgets, and biofuels curricula are often forgone in the absence of low-cost options. We developed low-cost instructional laboratory exercises in conjunction with University of Wisconsin campuses in Madison and Platteville. We will make these available as open resources for educational institutions desiring to offer students experience with biofuels technologies."
Posters in the Rotunda is a public event and a great opportunity to see some of the best work being done by UW System undergraduates.
Register now for Life Cycle Assessment course
Karyn BiascaDr. Karyn Biasca, chair of the UW-Stevens Point Paper Science & Engineering Department, will provide an introduction to life cycle assessment, or LCA, April 11 at UW-Stevens Point.
LCA is increasingly recognized as a valuable tool in measuring total environmental effects of creating, using and disposing of a product or service. Growing consumer interest in environmentally responsible products is driving more corporations to take a look at the environmental footprint of their operations. This one-day course also provides an overview of product category rules (PCR) and environmental product declarations (EPD).
The course is intended for anyone in an organization who needs a basic understanding of LCA, PCR or EPD. Register by March 22 for $350; for registration after March 22 the course fee is $500.
For more information click here. To register for the course email Angie Hauer or phone Angie at 715-346-2331. Click here to read more about the LCA course and about other short courses offered by WIST.
Networking with John Baldus at "Sustainability in Packaging"
BaldusWIST Director of Laboratory Services John Baldus will be attending Sustainability in Packaging in Orlando, March 5-7.
If you're going to be there as well, John would love the opportunity to visit with you. You can email John at
The conference, now in its eighth year, features presentations by experts from all over the supply chain, plus an exhibition area and great networking opportunities.