If you love to golf, but feel guilty every time your ball plops into the lake as another piece of litter, never fear — your environmental concerns may soon come to an end. An undergraduate student and an engineering professor at the University of Maine have developed a biodegradable golf ball that completely dissolves in water in one week. Using cooked lobster shells, a natural binding agent, and a mold they bought on eBay, the team has created an eco-friendly golf ball that hits and flies like the real thing, and costs 80 percent less than other biodegradable balls currently on the market.
Professor David Neivandt and student Alex Caddell, got the idea from former student Carin Orr, and they worked in conjunction with UMaine’s nonprofit Lobster Institute. After nine months of development and testing, the team believes they finally have a marketable product. The only tangible difference is that if you slice one of the lobster shell balls in half, it’s very pink. While there are other biodegradable balls out there, UMaine’s is different because it is both strong and breaks down quickly in the environment. Plus, other biodgradable balls cost about $1 each, and UMaine’s only cost 20 cents each. Using lobster shells for new manufacturing ideas will also reduce the amount of shell waste in landfills, and it will also help Maine’s lobster industry — something that is normally considered trash is now a profitable product for lobstermen.
The lobster shell ball doesn’t fly as far as traditional golf balls, but it does not damage wooden drivers when hit hard — a characteristic of most other biodegradable balls. Tests showed that UMaine’s ball can safely be hit with both drivers and irons. After a few whacks, however, the lobster shell ball begins to crack. While this may seem like a fault, Neivandt says this is what they intended; the cracks help the ball break down faster.
You may think, “Why on earth would I want to golf with a ball that’s going to crack after my first hole?” Well, the balls aren’t intended to be used on traditional golf courses (although, they could be modified to last longer). Neivandt says there is a market for single use balls: cruise ships. Cruise liners used to allow passengers to whack balls into the high seas, but they stopped due to environmental concerns. With this new ball, they would simply being putting the lobster shells back where they came from. But we think the ball could also appeal to green golfing novices who have a tendency to lose their balls in the weeds.
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