Hi there! Recently, I've uploaded a short video on YouTube explaining the scientific research I've been working on towards a zero-waste society. My objective is to produce biodegradable bioplastics using orange peel residues. Since my field of expertise is in Biotechnology, I'm searching for microorganisms that can naturally produce bioplastics using agroindustrial wastes as a substrate. I would be very glad to receive any comments or questions from you guys
I applaud any and all research towards better non petroleum based plastics. I am also skeptical as hell of anything bearing the name plastic, but I am also very pragmatic as well. The world not only loves plastic, but needs it (just a brief glance at any hospital drives that point home). So better plastic is a must, petroleum is going to run out, it’s not renewable. So what is the renewable and sustainable bio plastic of the future and why don’t we have it now? (Purely rhetorical question).
Humans love “money and lazy” and petroleum-plastics are the current mistress of choice for “money and lazy”. While orange peel doesn’t strike me as a mass resource for a growing planet about to overpopulate and outstrip food production, i do recognize it as a viable resource and learning opportunity that could be applied to other raw or waste materials. I’m am always curious if bio plastics release estrogenic chemicals (like all petroleum plastics), and if not, then that is incredibly huge, and should not be dismissed or diminished.
If you study the history of invention, especially those that replace the current norm, there is usually a keystone demographic or industry behind the successful adoption of that new invention. I suspect that the medical industry is going to be that keystone for any new bio plastics. If you win them, you win the world. (They also have the luxury of being able to afford the expenses of ramping up to cheaper mass production).
Thank you so much for sharing your critically important work with us Mariana! We are well past the point where your work is required so I'm very appreciative of what folks like you are doing. I design biomedical products and am very interested in moving our products to the biobased, biodegradable polymers of the future.....closed loop chemistry that biodegrades when any of it escapes that loop. We need to quickly climb out of the dark period in human history that we've been in.
The history of plastics is pretty interesting. Among other lessons, we can realize what we (as a society) valorize most. And I totally agree with you when you say that the world not only loves plastic but needs it.
The major hurdle for bioplastics is the cost of production of it. So to implement a large scale production we need to find ways to reduce costs. The idea of using agro-industrial wastes such as orange peels, go this way.
Not sure if you are familiarized with the concept of biorefinery. It's cool: the idea is to produce many products in one same plant, trying to transform every waste/by-product into a new product for the company's portfolio.
I live in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Here, we have a pilot-scale sugarcane biorefinery plant that produces PHAs bioplastics from sucrose. The company is named PHB Industrial and produces bioplastics, sugar, and ethanol, all in the same plant. This model significantly reduces the cost of production of the bioplastics from $US 5-6/kg of bioplastic to $US 2,25-2,75/kg.
I think the idea is to develop many ways of producing bioplastics as well as multiple types of bioplastics to cover the versatility of the conventional petrochemical ones. Following the bioeconomy concept, each region should invest in its vocation. My country is the world's largest producer of orange and sugarcane. Annually, Brazil generates 6.3 million metric tons of orange peel. And these residues are rich in carbohydrates that could be used as substrates to microbial production of bioplastics in local orange juice factories.
Sure we still have a lot to improve in terms of technology, but I really think bioplastics production won't become viable without more incentives as petrochemical industry taxation.
In this sense, I agree with you about the future of bioplastics in the biomedical field. Since many of these bioplastics are biocompatible (such as PHB and PHB-co-HV) and considering they are expensive, the most viable application are noble uses like scaffolds, sutures, etc.
I really appreciate your comment because I'm very excited about medical field applications. I think PHA's bioplastics are promising in this field. Researches are using this class of bioplastic/biopolymer to build heart valves, scaffolds for tissue engineering, drug delivery systems, etc. So I think we will see some relevant medical innovations in this way soon.