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Turn Milk into Plastic

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by Teisha Rowland, PhD and Sandra Slutz, PhD
Active Time
30-45 minutes
Total Project Time
1 to 2 days
Key Concepts
plastic, polymers, monomers, milk, casein
Classroom Activity Turn Milk into Plastic Photograph of items made out of plastic

Introduction

Have you ever heard that plastic can be made out of milk? If this sounds like something made-up to you, you may be surprised to learn that from the early 1900s until about 1945, milk was commonly used to make many different plastic ornaments, including buttons, decorative buckles, beads and other jewelry, fountain pens, the backings for hand-held mirrors, and fancy comb and brush sets. Milk plastic (usually called casein plastic) was even used to make jewelry for Queen Mary of England! In this activity you will make your own casein plastic out of hot milk and vinegar.

Credits

Teisha Rowland, PhD, Science Buddies
Sandra Slutz, PhD, Science Buddies
This activity is not appropriate for use as a science fair project. Good science fair projects have a stronger focus on controlling variables, taking accurate measurements, and analyzing data. To find a science fair project that is just right for you, browse our library of over 1,150 Science Fair Project Ideas or use the Topic Selection Wizard to get a personalized project recommendation.

Materials

  • Milk (1 cup)
  • White vinegar (4 teaspoons)
  • Measuring cup
  • Measuring spoons
  • Optional: Thermos
  • Mug or other heat-resistant cup large enough to hold at least 1 cup of milk
  • Paper towels
  • Spoon
  • Optional: Cookie cutters, glitter, food coloring, markers
  • Stovetop oven and pan or microwave and microwaveable container
    Classroom Activity Turn Milk into Plastic You need only a few simple household materials
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Active Time
30-45 minutes
Total Project Time
1 to 2 days
Key Concepts
plastic, polymers, monomers, milk, casein