Tipsheet: Environmental Story Ideas

With the 29th annual Earth Day coming up Thursday, April 22, environmental issues will be in the national spotlight. Here are some examples of University of Wisconsin-Madison research that focuses on environmentally friendly practices.

Wisconsin-Style Recycling: New Uses For Cow Manure

Aside from an annual cow chip toss, the world hasn't stumbled on too many alternative uses for cow manure. But UW-Madison researchers have a couple new ones: water filters and particle board.

The biological systems engineering scientists are using separated and cleaned fibers from cow manure to make high-quality hardboards. Those fibers also have an uncanny ability to filter heavy metals from water. Richard Koegel, a USDA researcher and professor of biological systems engineering, says they use a separating press at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center at Prairie du Sac to separate the manure fibers from liquid waste. The captured material is being used as bedding for farm animals, but researchers are exploring new ideas.

They teamed with a Chicago consultant to make steam pressure-treated hardboard from manure fibers. They are also working with Forest Products Laboratory researcher Jim Han, who specializes in creating biofilters to clean up water pollution. Han has installed a system that will use the manure fibers to filter storm water at Mount Horeb's Stewart Lake.

Koegel says odor is removed in the separation process. But whether the public ever catches wind of the material might depend on the wood market, where shortages in wood and paper pulp are predicted.

"People should know the research is preliminary," adds Koegel. "Otherwise, I'll get phone calls from 500 farmers asking where they can drop off their manure."

Koegel can be reached at 608-264-5149, or rgkoegel@facstaff.wisc.edu; Han at 608-231-9423.

Environmental Study Takes A Leap Into Orbit

In July of this year, if all go

Contact: Brian Mattmiller
University of Wisconsin-Madison

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