Apr 21, 2019 | Updated: 02:21 PM EDT

Scientists were Able to Derive Biodegradable Polymers from Single-Celled Microorganisms

Apr 09, 2019 11:31 AM EDT

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Screenshot from "Biodegradable plastic made from seaweed organisms" video by AP Archive


According to a report from the United Nations in 2018, a total of 13 million tonnes of plastic gets washed into the ocean every year. This includes many types of hard plastics and soft plastics as well that marine life mistake for food that often leads to their demise.

Aside from being responsible for endangering marine life, plastic is also largely responsible for greenhouse gas emissions during its production and when it is being disposed of.

However, plastic is somewhat important in the daily lives of people. This is the main reason for the popularity of plastic products. Now that the bad effects of plastic on the environment are being realized, some are looking into eliminating the use of plastic products. The effort of doing proves to be a challenging endeavor.

Other manufacturers are looking into using plastic alternatives. This made seaweed very popular among developers. Some products made out of seaweed are straws, cups, and sachets.

Scientists from Tel Aviv's University Porter School of Environmental and Earth Sciences have a different perspective when it comes to seaweed and plastic.

Dr. Alexander Golberg, one of the co-authors of the paper on the production of polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) published the science journal Bioresource Technology, explains that their team has tasked single-cell marine organisms to produce polymers that are biodegradable. The process requires that they feed the micro-organisms with seaweed as the organisms produce the potential alternative to plastic.

Michael Gozin, a professor in Tel Aviv's University of Chemistry and one of the co-authors of the paper as well, stated that their team has successfully produced marine-manufactured bio-plastic. Gozin is enthusiastic about their discovery, especially that a kilogram of the bio-plastic is said to cost only a dollar. This is good news as the product will be able to replace plastic material at a very affordable rate. Their bio-plastic can be used in the production of items that usually require polyesters, which typically required oil. Items that can be made with the team's bio-plastic range from food packaging to clothing.

Currently, the team is on a quest to improve their research even more. Their new study entails searching for the best bacteria and algae to come up with different kinds of polymers, enabling them to provide various types of bio-plastics for a wider range of demand.

Maya Jacobs, CEO of the Israeli environmental advocacy group (NGO) Zalul, is enthusiastic about China's move to reject plastic waste imports as it became a pivot point when new innovative solutions are materializing to battle the problem on plastic.

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