In this “biorecycling” factory, enzymes perfectly break down plastic so it can be used again


In this “biorecycling” factory, enzymes perfectly break down plastic so it can be used again

 The process lets any plastic—say a polyester shirt—be recycled into any other plastic (like a clear water bottle). It could fundamentally change the market for recycling.

Inside a bioreactor in the laboratory of the France-based startup Carbios, pulverized PET plastic waste—the kind of plastic found in drink bottles and polyester clothing—is mixed with water and enzymes, heated up, and churned. In a matter of hours, the enzymes decompose the plastic into the material’s basic building blocks, called monomers, which can then be separated, purified, and used to make new plastic that’s identical to virgin material. Later this year, the company will begin construction on its first demonstration recycling plant.

“Our process can use any kind of PET waste to manufacture any kind of PET object,” says Martin Stephan, the company’s deputy CEO. It’s a process that could happen in an infinite loop: Unlike traditional recycling, which degrades materials each time you do it, this type of “biorecycling” can happen repeatedly without a loss in quality. A new transparent water bottle made this way will look and perform like one made from oil, even if the source was a mixture of old clothing and dirty plastic food trays. “The final product will be the same quality as petrochemical PET,” Stephan says.

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This fully biodegradable “leather” is welded together from waste



This fully biodegradable “leather” is welded together from waste

Mirum is the latest entry in the attempt to make a cheap, sustainable cow-free leather.

Vegan leather shoes are typically made from plastics like polyurethane–so even though they might avoid the carbon footprint and animal welfare issues of raising cattle, they aren’t exactly environmentally friendly. Even plant-based leather typically uses plastic resin or glue to hold the material together. And while some companies work on lab-grown collagen or leather made from mushroom roots, those aren’t widely available and can be difficult to scale up. A new leather brand thinks it has technology that could make plant-based leather–without any plastic–mainstream.

“The foundation of the company is plants, not plastic,” says Luke Haverhals, the founder and CEO of Natural Fiber Welding, the company making a new brand of leather called Mirum. The product has a similar cost to plastic alternatives, but can be made from agricultural waste and is fully biodegradable.

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Maine passes the U.S.’s first state ban on foam food packaging


The state joins several U.S. cities and counties in restricting the containers in an effort to reduce waste.

This article was created in partnership with the National Geographic Society.

Maine has joined a growing list of states, cities, and counties, including 14 towns in Maine, to ban foam food containers in an effort to reduce plastic waste.

The bill bans bowls, plates, cups, trays, cartons, and other containers designed to hold prepared food and beverages. Signed by Governor Janet Mills Tuesday, it takes effect January 1, 2021.

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Microorganisms that eat seaweed can create biodegradable plastic


Ocean Of Opportunity

Earth’s oceans contain tens of millions of tons of plastic pollution. But a new technique that creates biodegradable plastics out of seaweed could finally give the oceans relief.

Bioplastics are plastics manufactured from biomass sources instead of fossil fuels. Many degrade far more quickly than traditional plastics, but creating them typically requires fertile soil and fresh water, which aren’t available everywhere.

Now, researchers have found a way to create a bioplastic using seaweed, a far more accessible resource — a promising new approach that could both reduce strain on the plastic-clogged oceans and reduce the Earth’s dependence on fossil fuels.

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Researchers are developing a sustainable concrete alternative made of desert sand


The strength of bricks and concrete with half the carbon footprint

Sand is the hidden ingredient of design. It’s used to make glass and computer chips, and to bulk and strengthen the concrete used in many of the buildings around us. Though it seems like an abundant resource, sand miners are depleting the gritty, building-grade sand faster than it can be replenished, which has led to a shortage that puts both the environment and industry at risk.

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NASA to create bioengineered drones made of mushrooms and bacteria


Prototype of the bioengineered drone.

Autonomous drones can seem like they have minds of their own and that creeps out some people.  But a new, NASA-backed research project seeks to create something quite different: A living, breathing, biodegradable drone made out of bacteria and fungi.



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New surgical glue can mend a broken heart

Patching up holes in blood vessels and the heart’s walls may become easier with blood-resistant glue.

You’re operating on a heart and it’s got a tear in it. How do you mend it? The traditional answers are with sutures or staples, but they aren’t good ones. Both involve piercing tissue and creating holes, which is bad news for an organ that’s constantly moving, and vigorously pumping blood. Holes lead to clots. They also bleed.



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Edible batteries could power smart medicine pills

A flexible biodegradable battery just may be what the doctor ordered.

What happens when you forget a dose of medication your doctor has prescribed for a condition that relies on the timed delivery of your medicine? Enter the smart pill, a sensor-equipped capsule that you only need to take just once. The smart pill releases medicine on a schedule or as your body needs it. But what would power that pill? The answer is simple: an edible battery.



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3D printed biodegradable underwear can be made in 3 seconds

3D printed underwear.

For those who hate to do laundry the days of washing your underwear may soon be over. Thanks to the power and versatility of 3D textile printing, the Tamicare company has created a biodegradable and completely customizable fabric that comes in any desired shape, with no fabric waste. (Video)



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WikiCells – edible food containers

edible food container

Edible food containers.

Harvard University’s Wyss Institute’s Dr. David Edwards is the man behind the controversial (as in, the FDA plans to investigate its safety) breathable caffeine and other vitamins, has been working on a new futuristic food item: edible containers. They’ve already created tomato containers with gazpacho inside, among other treats.

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