News from South Korea is that scientists have succeeded in creating plastic without the use of fossil fuels.
The scientists created sustainable polymers used in common plastics that could replace traditional polymers that use chemicals from fossil fuels. The bioengineered polymers may be what is needed to create truly green-friendly plastic products.
This research is now published in two papers in the journal Biotechnology and Bioengineering.
The research team was from KAIST University and the Korean chemical company LG Chem. With Professor Sang Yup Lee in the lead, the team focused their research on polyactic acid (PLA), “a bio-based polymer which holds the key to producing plastics through natural and renewable resources.”
“The polyesters and other polymers we use everyday are mostly derived from fossil oils made through the refinery or chemical process,” said Lee. “The idea of producing polymers from renewable biomass has attracted much attention due to the increasing concerns of environmental problems and the limited nature of fossil resources. PLA is considered a good alternative to petroleum based plastics as it is both biodegradable and has a low toxicity to humans.”
The method the researchers have developed is relatively efficient and commercially viable, according to the researchers.
Lee gives hope that this method they developed for creating PLA and “lactate-containing copolymers” from a renewable source could be used to create more polymers using sustainable methods and renewable resources. “Global warming and other environmental problems are urging us to develop sustainable processes based on renewable resources,” Lee commented. “This new strategy should be generally useful for developing other engineered organisms capable of producing various unnatural polymers by direct fermentation from renewable resources.”
This looks like a good step forward in the world of plastic. Hope to see this sustainable plastic used commercially soon and more breakthroughs in this area.
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