Because there are few materials than can compete with plastic in durability, versatility and malleability, it is difficult to replace. There is plastic in virtually everything we use: vinyl records, light switches, cables, credit cards, keyboard, computer, packaging and the inside of your car. More than 90% of this plastic is petroleum-based and it takes hundreds or thousands of years for it to decompose, frequently ending up in the stomachs of birds and fish and polluting the environment.
To limit the enormous damage we are creating we have to find innovative ways to create plastic and to get rid of it after we use it that are less harmful to the environment. Scientists at the Center for Sustainable Polymers at University of Minnesota, focus their research on making plastic from renewable resources. They have managed to create a foam that is environmentally safe, made from E.coli bacteria that they have genetically modified to synthesize molecules that can be polymerized to create new materials. After being fed sugar and fermented, the new molecule is mixed with a catalyst in the lab, producing a foam that can be used for cushioning in bedding or car seats, for example. The great advantage is that this material can later be broken down to its original molecule and recycled endlessly or it can biodegrade into inocuous by-products.
And this is not the only type of plastic they are researching…
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