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Curr Opin Biotechnol. 2019 Jun;57:160-166. doi: 10.1016/j.copbio.2019.03.020. Epub 2019 May 7.

Can biotechnology turn the tide on plastics?

Author information

1
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, United States.
2
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, United States. Electronic address: criddle@stanford.edu.

Abstract

Accumulation of plastic pollution in aquatic ecosystems is the predictable result of high demand for plastic functionalities, optimized production with economies of scale, and recalcitrance. Strategies are needed for end-of-life conversion of recalcitrant plastics into useful feedstocks and for transition to materials that are biodegradable, non-bioaccumulative, and non-toxic. Promising alternatives are the polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), a vast family of polymers amenable to decentralized production from renewable feedstocks. Establishment of a global-scale PHA-based industry will require identification of PHAs with tailored properties for use as 'drop-in' replacements for existing plastics; use of low-cost renewable/waste-derived feedstocks; high productivity cultures that may be genetically modified microorganisms or non-axenic mixed cultures maintained by selection pressures that favor high PHA-producing strains; and low-cost extraction/purification schemes.

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