Energy and Science Projects
For Students


 Making "Plastic" Using Milk

 

Every plant and animal on earth, from a flower to a lion, has a body whose chemicals are based on carbon. The study of carbon chemicals and how they react is known as organic chemistry.

Oil is a fossil fuel formed in rocks over millions of years from the bodies of small sea creatures, plants and even dinosaurs. Gasoline, used for fuel in our cars and trucks, is a very important product made from oil. Many plastics are made from oil.

Try This!

You can make "plastic" in a few minutes using milk—another organic (carbon-containing) substance.


What You'll Need

You'll need an adult's help to warm the heavy cream in a saucepan.


What to Do

  1. Ask an adult to warm the heavy cream in a saucepan.
  2. When it is just simmering, slowly stir in a few teaspoons of vinegar. The secret here is to slowly drip the vinegar into the cream and keep stirring. The acidic chemicals in the vinegar react with the organic milk chemicals.
  3. Keep stirring until it becomes rubbery.
  4. Let it cool and wash it under running water.


Results

Now you have your own "plastic!" Plastic is really made from petroleum-based chemicals. And because oil or petroleum is a finite resource we need to conserve it. That's why we should recycle all our platics items so we won't be wasting oil.


This Energy Education Project comes from the California Energy Commission
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