The Bio-Plastics Revolution Starts in This Lab

June 7, 2016
With such tools as E. coli and sugar, researchers are creating the bags and bottles of the future.

You know what is one of the great ecological problems in the world today? Just one word. Are you listening?


For decades, the world has relied on plastic’s durability, light weight, and ease of manufacturing. But what was a past breakthrough is now an urgent threat to the health of the planet. The production of plastic requires large amounts of fossil fuels, and its disposal has led to landfills and oceans overflowing with waste.

If we’re to get out from under the all the plastic we’ve created and thrown away, we’re going to have to do two things: find renewable sources from which we can make environmentally friendly plastics, and devise ways to clean up the plastic we’ve already discarded.

Fortunately, researchers are working on solutions to address both these needs. If they’re successful in remaking plastic, it—and we all—may well have as great a future as it did 50 years ago.