Every week, we unwittingly ingest about 5 grams of microplastics through eating grains and vegetables, which can lead to respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and even lung cancer, according to recent research. We want to eliminate these microplastics from the world and are using bacteria to make an alternative: the biodegradable plastic ‘PHA’. Will you help make your food plastic-free?
How do microplastics get into our food?
A major source of pollution in our food comes from the packaging of fertiliser granules and agricultural foil. To distribute fertiliser nutrients gradually over the season, the grains are wrapped in a thin layer of plastic. This packaging disintegrates into microplastics after a while. Plant roots slurp up these pieces of plastic and transport it to the edible parts of the plant.
Phasing out microplastics with PHAse Out
The ‘PHAse Out’ project is working on an affordable and sustainable way to make biodegradable packing layers for fertiliser granules with the help of bacteria. This biodegradable plastic is slowly broken down by bacteria in the soil. Similar to using non-biodegradable plastic, the fertiliser is slowly released to the soil. But the breakdown of biodegradable plastics leaves no microplastics behind that can be taken up by plants. Our produced bioplastics are thus an interesting alternative to the layers surrounding fertiliser granules.
Not expensive but sustainable
Methanol is used as a base material for making PHA, a cheaper and more environmentally friendly alternative to conventional sugars usually fed to PHA-producing microbes. Methanol can be produced from CO2 from the air, waste or biogas. This makes the entire process from methanol to bioplastic CO2 neutral.
You can help!
The iGEM team Leiden 2023, is group of ambitious students from Leiden University working on this project as part of a competition around synthetic biology. They are responsible for their own funding, which is why they are launching this crowdfunding. Please support iGEM team Leiden 2023, not only to take them to victory, but more importantly to help the world achieve a plastic-free diet!