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Seth Kane

Montana State University, Ph.D.
EREF Scholar 2020

Treatment of Plastic Waste for Concrete Reinforcement to Increase Viability of Plastic Recycling in Rural AreasProject Description:
New methods to recycle plastic waste are needed to address growing concerns with the amount of plastic waste landfilled. Particularly, types 3-7 plastic are recycled at very low rates due to the low cost of virgin plastic and high labor costs associated with cleaning and sorting these waste streams. One use for plastic waste is as an additive in concrete, but low strength of the resulting material prevents widespread use. The process of biomineralization demonstrates potential to improve the strength of plastic-reinforced concrete by using bacteria to form a mineral layer on the plastic waste. This calcium carbonate interface is hypothesized to increase the strength of the resulting plastic-reinforced concrete to acceptable levels. Additionally, locally sourced, food-contaminated, mixed-type flakes can be used, thereby avoiding cleaning, sorting, processing and transportation expenses typically associated with plastic recycling. Kane’s research  aims to: (1) examine plastic waste from many points in the recycling process, such as cleaning, sorting and processing, and identify both the cost of production and the resulting material properties of the biomineralized-plastic-reinforced concrete at each point; (2) identify applications where biomineralized plastic waste can be used effectively as an additive in concrete; (3) determine the overall environmental impact of this process on the identified applications using life-cycle assessment; and (4) quantify the amount of plastic waste that could cost effectively be diverted from the landfill using this process.

Kane attended Montana State University for his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from 2012 to 2018. During this time, he focused on Material Science, performed research exploring the effect of biofilms on microelectrical mechanical structures and earned a minor in Materials. In the fall of 2018, he continued on to a MS in Mechanical Engineering at Montana State University. Kane’s current research focus is on sustainable composite materials with projects examining: 1) the thermomechanical effects of lignin-sourced biochar filler material on biodegradable polymers; 2) the changes in mechanical properties with the addition of food-waste-sourced biochar to recycled plastics; and 3) modeling of additive manufacturing of biodegradable polymers. He expects to complete his Master’s degree in the fall of 2020. In the Spring of 2020, he began simultaneously working on a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at Montana State University with a research focus on the biomineralization of plastic waste for use as a filler material in concrete.