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06/02 Monday 11:07AM

biodegradable golf balls

Lobster shells will now be all over the cruise ship's driving range.  Researcher at Maine University have come up with a biodegradable golf ball made from discarded lobster shells, a by-product of the lobster canning industry which would otherwise end up in a landfill. Inexpensive to make, the ball is designed to sink and degrade within weeks, depending on the ocean's depth and temperature.  The ball would degrade in a similar time frame in freshwater, and on land, it will break down but that would take longer.

For many years, hitting golf balls into the sea has been a favourite pastime on cruise ships but the practice ended after an international treaty banned the dumping of plastic, including golf balls, into the sea.  With lobster balls, the activity may just come back. They are made from crushed lobster shells, combined with a biodegradable binder and coating. They are also cost-effective - raw materials for one lobster shell ball comes to about 19 cents compared to the usual biodegradable golf balls which cost just less than $1.

Although they don't fly quite as far as regular golf balls, they are said to offer similar performance to other biodegradable balls and has one advantage over the others - you can use both wooden drivers and iron clubs.

The executive director of Maine University's nonprofit Lobster Institute, Bob Sayer, explained that the idea came from Carin Orr, a former student of his.  Bayer carried the idea to an engineering professor, David Neivandt adn a junior bioengineering major (and avid golfer), Alex Caddell, who came up with a functional golf ball after nine months of experimentation.

“It drives like a real golf ball, and it sounds like a real golf ball” when hit, Bayer said. “If you look at a cross section, it’s very pink.”  Neivandt said that short of cutting the ball in half, it's appearance is indistinguishable from other golf balls as the weight and size is the same, and it flies straight when hit.

It seems the lobster golf ball research team has an environmental winner on their hands and now they have other things on their mind - biodegradable flower pots.

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