About 50 million tons of lignin -- or structural part of a plant -- piles up each year as waste from the U.S. pulp & paper industry. Additional lignin could come from biorefineries that use plants to produce ethanol, yielding another 100 million to 200 million tons of lignin waste each year. Yet only about 2% of the lignin waste is currently recycled into new products, according to Dr. Joshua Yuan, Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientist.
"Lignin is considered as one of the most abundant biopolymers in the world," he said. "All this waste accumulates, and it will be great to use it for something."