Soon, biodegradable plastics to be made with help of microalgae

Scientists have found an alternative method to produce a revolutionary bioplastic that has been traditionally too expensive to produce to replace petroleum-based plastics.

Poly-3-hydroxybutyrate (PHB) is a biodegradable thermoplastic polyester which occurs naturally in bacteria as Ralstonia eutropha and Bacillus megaterium.

“Millions of tons of petroleum-based plastic are consumed every year worldwide causing immense amounts of waste that can take thousands of years to biodegrade – if at all,” said Franziska Hempel and Prof Uwe Maier from the LOEWE-Centre Synmikro in Marburg, and Prof Alexander Steinbüchel from Westfalische Wilhelms-Universitat.

“Bacterial fermentation is expensive and while people have introduced a similar system into plants, plants are relatively slow growing and biofuel agriculture uses up valuable land,” they added.

In the quest to find biodegradable and renewable sources of plastics, researchers hope that microalgae-produced PHB may well provide an answer.

The study has been published in BioMed Central’s open access journal Microbial Cell Factories.

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