A new sustainable plastic is being developed in Israel and its creators say it could one day free the world of its worst pollutant.
The biopolymer developed by Tel Aviv University researchers is derived from microorganisms that feed on seaweed. It is biodegradable, produces no toxic waste and recycles into organic waste.
It is seen as offering a comparable, environmentally friendly alternative to the plastic now polluting the land and oceans worldwide.
Alexander Golberg of the un-iversity’s School of Environmental and Earth Sciences and Michael Gozin of the School of Chemistry say their invention is better than bioplastics, which don’t use pe-troleum and degrade quickly.
These bioplastics still have an environmental price.
“To grow the plants or the bacteria to make the plastic requires fertile soil and fresh water, which many countries, including Israel, don’t have,” Golberg says.
“Our new process produces ‘plastic’ from marine micro-organisms that completely recycle into organic waste.”
Their research, published in
the journal Bioresource Tech-nology, describes how they harnesses microorganisms that feed on seaweed to produce a bioplastic polymer called poly-hydroxyalkanoate (PHA).
“Our raw material is multicellular seaweed, cultivated in the sea,” Golberg says. “These algae were
eaten by single-celled micro-organisms, which also grow in very salty water and produce a polymer that can be used to make bioplastic.”
There are already factories that produce this type of bioplastic in commercial quantities, but they use plants that require agricultural land and fresh water.
“The process we propose will allow countries with a shortage of fresh water, such as Israel, China and India, to switch from petroleum-derived plastics to biodegradable plastics,” Golberg says.
The researchers say their new product could revolutionize the world’s efforts to clean the oceans, without affecting arable land and without using fresh water.
“Plastic from fossil sources is one of the most polluting factors in the oceans,” Golberg says.
“We have proved it is possible to produce bioplastic completely based on marine resources in
a process that is friendly both to
the environment and to its residents.