Sep. 13—A team of Washington State University researchers have developed a fast way to convert a common plastic into a high-quality resin.
The “simple and efficient” method turns a biologically based plastic used in disposable silverware and food packaging into resin for three-dimensional printers, according to a WSU news release.
The study was led by Jinwen Zhang, a professor in the WSU School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, and has been published in the journal, Green Chemistry.
About 300,000 tons of the plastic are produced annually and its use is increasing dramatically, according to the news release.
“We found a way to immediately turn this into something that’s stronger and better,” said Yu-Chung Chang, a postdoctoral researcher in the WSU School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and co-corresponding author, in the news release.
“We hope that (it) will provide people the incentive to upcycle this stuff, instead of just (tossing) it away,” he said. “We made stronger materials just straight out of the trash. We believe this could be a good opportunity.”
The plastic is categorized as a No. 7 and it doesn’t break down easily, floating in fresh or salt water for a year without deteriorating and taking as long as 100 years to decompose in a landfill.
“It is also rarely recycled, because, like many plastics, when it’s melted down and reformed, it doesn’t perform as well as the original version and becomes less valuable,” according to the news release.
The catalyst-free process pioneered by the WSU team breaks the long chain of molecules in the plastic down into simple monomers, the building blocks for many plastics, in about two days. It uses an inexpensive chemical at mild temperatures.
After the plastic is deconstructed, it’s rebuilt into a “photo-curable liquid resin that is commonly used as ‘ink’ for 3D printers,” according to the news release.
The WSU researchers have filed a provisional patent and are exploring other applications for their discovery.
Employee ownership feted at Schweitzer Engineering
Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories is the 22nd largest employee-owned company in the United States.
That ranking comes from the National Center for Employee Ownership, which recently released its 2022 list of the nation’s largest companies that are at least 50% employee owned.
SEL has steadily climbed on the annual list, rising 27 spots since 2011. SEL first transitioned to employee ownership through an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) in 1994, according to an SEL news release.
“(The business) became 100 percent employee owned in 2009 as part of the company’s long-term strategy for sustained growth, stability and customer focus,” according to the news release.
Employee ownership is key to SEL’s success, creating an environment where employees have a personal stake in the company’s outcome, said SEL Chief Business and Financial Officer Joey Nestegard in the news release.
“This is a business model that results in long-term employment, high levels of employee engagement and exceptional relationships with customers,” he said.
Headquartered in Pullman, SEL invents, designs and builds digital products and systems that protect power grids around the world. The technology prevents blackouts and enables customers to improve power system reliability, safety and cost.
Sandwich shop opens at familiar Lewiston location
LEWISTON — Fans of Stax will find a lot that’s familiar at Wilson Sandwich Company, the eatery that recently opened in Stax’s former space at Towne Square in Lewiston.
The bread is baked fresh every day and the sandwiches are so big that a half feels like a full serving.
The similarities are part of the approach of the owners, Ashlie and Adam Wilson, who have added breakfast and expanded the menu.
Wilson Sandwich Company is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays at 504 Main St., Suite 210. It has four breakfast sandwiches, pastries made in house and espresso drinks that are served during all business hours.
The breads are made from Ashlie Wilson’s own recipes. The honey wheat variety is the most popular.
“The way it toasts, it just ties everything together really well,” she said. “It marries the salty and the sweet together.”
Sandwich fillings include chicken salad, egg salad and bacon, as well as new combinations such as one made with chicken, in-house chipotle sauce, cheddar cheese, tomato and onion that’s grilled, and Skip’s Favorite, with ham, Swiss cheese, tomato, lettuce, mayo and mustard that’s served cold.
The latter is named after Adam Wilson’s grandfather.
“He passed last year, but was one of the most important people in our life and our biggest cheerleader,” Ashlie said.
The Wilsons met when they were attending Lewis-Clark State College. Ashlie managed Lewiston’s Stax before it closed in June and has the same role in the new business. Adam is a produce manager at Albertsons in Clarkston.
The Stax in Moscow is still open and operates under separate ownership.
Grant to Dayton business intended to improve food supply chain
DAYTON — Table Rock Meat Company in Dayton has received a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help construct a meat-processing harvest floor.
The business’s plans include having a mobile refrigeration truck and developing a value-added processing area in the future, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture news release.
The grant was one of 111 recently announced awards, totaling $21.9 million in 37 states, intended to strengthen supply chains.
“USDA continues to build capacity and increase economic opportunity for small and mid sized meat and poultry producers across the country,” said Jenny Lester Moffitt, USDA under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs in the news release.
Company with ties to Lewiston expands its operation in Minnesota
Federal Ammunition has broken ground on a 100,000-square-foot warehouse at its site in the Minneapolis area.
The building is being constructed on Federal’s 175-acre property that has nearly 1 million square feet of manufacturing and operations space, according to a news release from Vista Outdoor.
The facility runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, producing shotshell, rifle, handgun and rimfire ammunition, as well as bullets and primers as reloading components.
“This project will improve efficiency in our manufacturing process by storing, in close proximity and in one location, the raw materials needed to build ammunition,” said Jason Vanderbrink, president of sporting products at Vista Outdoor, the parent company of Federal and Lewiston’s CCI/Speer.
Williams may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 848-2261.