Israeli researchers have developed a bioplastic made from organisms that eat seaweed, overcoming the need for soil and water in creating more sustainable plastic products.
“Our new process produces ‘plastic’ from marine microorganisms that completely recycle into organic waste,” said Tel Aviv University Environmental Engineer Alexander Golberg in a press release.
Plastic accounts for around 90 percent of ocean pollutants in our oceans, according to the United Nations. Since plastic traditionally comes from fossil fuels, it’s also a major source of carbon emissions that contribute to climate change.
Bioplastics made from organic materials like hemp have long promised to become a good replacement for polluting, carbon-based polymers. But they require soil and fresh water, making them costly competitors of agriculture, development and other land uses or impossible to produce in countries where land is at a premium, like Israel.
Publishing their findings in the journal Bioresource Technology, Golburh and his colleagues discovered microorganisms that convert seaweed into a bioplastic called polyhydroxyalkanoate.
“Our raw material was multicellular seaweed, cultivated in the sea,” Golberg said. “These algae were eaten by single-celled microorganisms, which also grow in very salty water and produce a polymer that can be used to make bioplastic.
The new polymer could be produced in ocean farms, delivering a steady stream of a material used in numerous household products and industrial applications.
Golberg is now refining the process so he can find bacteria and algae that make bioplastics with different properties for different uses.
Image credit: Reciclado Creativo via Flickr