Knowledge Update

BACTERIA TO BIODEGRADABLE PLASTIC

blog post

What are Bioplastics?

Bioplastics are biobased products which, because of their biodegradability and renewability, allow for greater product sustainability. As bioplastics that biodegrade to CO2 and H2O mitigate the adverse effects of standard plastics (litter and damage to aquatic environments), their use is attractive. Two of the biggest issues with conventional plastics are the fact that they are made from non-renewable petroleum, and once discarded, they remain around for decades Instead of petroleum, renewable feedstocks such as maize, sugarcane and algae can be used, decreasing global reliance on crude oil and decreasing the effects on the environment It can either be produced by extracting sugar from plants such as maize and sugarcane to be processed into polylactic acids (PLAs), or it can be produced from microorganism-engineered polyhydroxyalkanoates ( PHAs). It is also sometimes referred to as bio-based plastic. In food packaging, PLA plastic is widely used, although in medical devices such as sutures and cardiovascular patches, PHA is also used .Bioplastics currently account for just about 1 percent of the > 360 million tonnes of plastics manufactured annually, but with annual growth of 20-30 percent, despite rising global environmental awareness. Reduced prices, legislation, and growing demand for consumer awareness are increasing due to the production of advanced biopolymers and materials [1].

Polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB)

In 1926, French researcher Maurice Lemoigne discovered that Bacillus megaterium, a bacterium much larger than E. coli was stressed, the microbe will generate polyhydroxybutyrate, or PHB. This can be used to create plastic that only CO2, water and organic biomass as it breaks down.Sadly, little is done with PHB because processing is up to 100 times costlier than other plastics, and cost is not anticipated to decrease in the future. In order to do something about these evidence, scientists have tried to change plants in a genetic way to generate pHB like fermenting bacteria [2].

Current Trends

The recent pandemic have boosted the marked of bacteria PHA based bioplastic keeping in concern the degradation caused by conventional plastic. Scientists at the German Fraunhofer Institute for Production Systems and Design Technology began with industrial waste such as fats containing a high amount of residual minerals in order to manufacture 'eco-friendly' plastic. Genetically engineered bacteria then metabolised those minerals inside a fermentation chamber and transformed them into a biopolymer known as polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB). The microbes processed it as an energy source in their cells in liquid form. Once the PHB was eventually dissolved from the bacteria, it was combined with patented chemical additives, which allowed the PHB to harden much faster than would otherwise have been the case, among other things. What resulted was a biologically derived polyester that is said to exhibit properties close to those of polypropylene. That said, if the polyester based on PHB is put in an ordinary landfill, it is reportedly completely broken down within six to 12 months by naturally occurring micro-organisms [3].

In order to replace conventional fossil-based raw materials, the EU-funded REFUCOAT project has successfully produced a new range of processes for manufacturing bioplastics for food packaging from renewable materials.REFUCOAT has developed three different bio-based active packaging systems using these bioplastics, which include polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) and polyglycolic acid (PGA), specifically formulated for fresh chicken, breadcrumbs and crisps[4].

The market for polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) is forecast to hit an estimated volume of 45.49 tonnes by 2027, with a growth rate of 7.60 per cent for the forecast market Increased usage of polyhydroxyalkanoates in different COVID applications, one of which is expected to drive the demand for polyhydroxyalkanoates in the 2020-2027 forecast era [5].

Source:-Data Bridge Market Research

We can’t get rid of conventional plastic at once and the era of bio plastic will definitely take time to come and flourish because of many challenges. Although we can contribute by minimizing our use and dependency. This is a field right now for entrepreneurial investors. There’s no shortage of incredible opportunity for alternatives. As biofuels are part of the broader sense of a renewable energy market, bioplastics can be seen as part of a systemic approach to the transition to a sustainable plastic industry. To identify the net contribution of these materials, detailed lifecycle analyses are also important, as their processing can require energy-intensive measures. Researchers and other stakeholders all have a role to play by closely analysing the usage of energy when importing biochemicals, maximising the use of water and energy during the production of bioplastics, and designing the final storage, recycling and selection of the commodity.

References:

  1. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2018/11/are-bioplastics-made-from-plants-better-for-environment-ocean-plastic/
  2. .https://arstechnica.com/science/2020/01/are-bioplastics-all-hype-or-the-future-of-textiles/
  3. https://newatlas.com/environment/bioplastic-waste-biodegrades-one-year/
  4. https://packagingeurope.com/eu-funded-project-reports-success-with-bioplastic-projects/
  5. https://aerospace-journal.com/coronavirus/299084/polyhydroxyalkanoates-pha-market-will-reach-an-estimated-volume-of-45-49-tons-by-2027-top-companies-danimer-scientific-biomatera-inc-bio-mer-international/

 

Mrs. Jyoti Rajwar, is a Lecturer II in Skyline University Nigeria. She has MSc in Microbiology from G.B.Pant University of Agriculture & Technology, India.

You can join the conversation on Facebook @SkylineUniversityNG and on Twitter @SkylineUNigeria