How can bioplastics contribute to diminish plastic pollution?

Watch the video produced by SEBBM, one of the winners of the call for proposals from Constituent Societies for events or activities on the theme of plastics, organised by the FEBS Science and Society Committee.
How can bioplastics contribute to diminish plastic pollution?

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At the virtual 45th FEBS Congress (Ljubljana 3-8 July, 2021), the FEBS Science and Society Committee organized a session that explored the topic Plastics: revolution, pollution and substitution. To build on this and reach a wider audience, the Committee also announced a call for proposals from Constituent Societies for an event or activity under the same theme.

Earlier this year the FEBS Science and Society Committee decided to sponsor two proposals with €1500 each. The Spanish Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (SEBBM) was one of the awardees, with a proposal to develop a video titled “How can bioplastics contribute to diminish plastic pollution?”.

The video shows how biotechnologists can improve and design bacteria to optimize bioplastic production with custom-made properties. You can watch the SEBBM video here and read the script at the end of this post:


Production and additional financial support

This video is part of the R+D+i project PID2020-112766RB-C21 financed by MCIN/ AEI/10.13039/501100011033. It has been co-funded by PID2020-112766RB-C21 (50%) and the Federation of European Biochemical Societies (FEBS) Social Events Program on “Plastics: revolution, pollution and substitution” (42,25%).

The content of this video has been designed by Ana M. Hernández-Arriaga, Manuel S. Godoy, Virginia Rivero-Buceta and Auxiliadora Prieto of the Polymer Biotechnology Lab (POLYBIO-Biological Research Center Margarita Salas of the Spanish National Research Council (CIB-CSIC)).

New call for ‘science and society’ activity/event proposals

The next call for a Science and Society activity/event proposals from FEBS Constituent Societies is on the theme of ‘RNA solutions to genetic and infectious diseases’. The deadline to submit a proposal is 15 Jan 2023. You can get more information from the FEBS website Science and Society section.

Video script (English and Spanish)

Oil-based plastic materials became popular in the middle of the 20th century, and they brought an unprecedented revolution to people’s quality of life. Flexible, versatile and long-lasting: Plastics made it possible to reduce production costs in the industry, to improve food preservation and were even key in fighting the pandemic. However, their massive production and poor waste management over decades have created scenarios where huge amounts of plastic pollute land, air and oceans.

Los plásticos derivados del petróleo se hicieron muy populares a mediados del siglo 20 y supusieron una revolución sin precedentes para la calidad de vida de las personas. Flexibles, versátiles y duraderos: los plásticos hicieron posible reducir los costes de producción en la industria, mejorar la conservación de los alimentos e incluso fueron clave en la lucha contra la pandemia. Sin embargo, la producción masiva y la mala gestión de los residuos durante décadas han creado escenarios en los que grandes cantidades de plástico contaminan la tierra, el aire y los océanos.

Bioplastics with similar characteristics to their petro-chemical counterparts but made from renewable resources such as biowastes are being developed. Some of the most widely used plastics already have their bio-based analogues, however these materials are resistant to biodegradation, too.

Bioplásticos con características similares a las de sus equivalentes petroquímicos, pero hechos de recursos renovables, por ejemplo residuos orgánicos, están siendo desarrollados. Algunos de los plásticos comúnmente utilizados ya tienen su equivalente de origen biológico, sin embargo, estos materiales también son resistentes a la biodegradación.

At the POLYBIO LAb of the Biological Research Center-Margarita Salas we are investigating and developing compostable and/or biodegradable bioplastics made by bacteria.

En el grupo POLYBIO del Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas – Margarita Salas estamos investigando y desarrollando bioplásticos compostables y/o biodegradables sintetizados por bacterias.

We have multiple lines of research that leverage bacteria’s capacity to create biopolymers. We use them for bioplastic formulations such as bacterial cellulose, PLA and polyhydroxyalkanoates or PHAs. 

Tenemos varias líneas de investigación que aprovechan la capacidad de las bacterias para desarrollar biopolímeros. Las utilizamos para formular bioplásticos como la celulosa bacteriana, el PLA, los polihidroxialcanoatos o PHAs.

We improve and design strains of bacteria to optimize the biopolymer production with custom-made properties and feed them with different residues.

Mejoramos y diseñamos cepas bacterianas para optimizar la producción de biopolímeros con propiedades hechas a medida y las alimentamos con distintos residuos.

In addition, we investigate how to improve the degradation of these bioplastics by designing and applying enzymes in order to implement the compostability, biodegradation in the open environment or the upcycling of the residues they generate.

Además, investigamos cómo optimizar la degradación de estos bioplásticos mediante el diseño y la aplicación de enzimas para mejorar su compostabilidad, su biodegradación en la naturaleza o el reciclaje de los residuos que generan.

We also develop functionalized materials by anchoring specific peptides or enzymes with tailored activity. Thanks to these proteins, they gain new properties and applications. These new materials such as hydrogels, films or aerogels that can lodge useful enzymes on their surface gain several applications in biomedicine, for example.

También desarrollamos materiales funcionalizados mediante el anclaje de péptidos o enzimas específicas con actividad adaptada. Gracias a estas proteínas, adquieren nuevas propiedades y aplicaciones. Estos nuevos materiales, como hidrogeles, películas o aerogeles que pueden albergar enzimas útiles en su superficie se usan para varios fines por ejemplo en biomedicina.

Finally, we design and build tailored food wrap and antimicrobial packaging material to eliminate potential foodborne pathogens.

Finalmente, diseñamos y construimos envoltorios alimentarios “a la carta” y materiales de envasado antimicrobianos para eliminar posibles patógenos transmitidos por alimentos.

Our goal is clear: we want to take advantage of these features that helped plastics revolutionize our world but reducing the impact they have on our ecosystems. However, this task cannot be left to science alone. To reduce plastic pollution, scientists, policy makers, industry, and citizens must work together. Protecting the environment is everyone’s business.

Nuestro objetivo es claro: queremos aprovechar las características que ayudaron a los plásticos a revolucionar nuestro mundo, pero reduciendo el impacto que tienen en nuestros ecosistemas. Sin embargo, esta tarea no puede dejarse sólo en manos de la ciencia. Para reducir la contaminación por plásticos los científicos, los políticos, la industria y los ciudadanos deben trabajar juntos. Proteger el medio ambiente es cosa de todos. 

Photo by Marc Newberry on Unsplash 

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