from the soylent-[place-color-here]-is-plastic-garbage dept.
Two U.S. scientists have won a 1 million euro ($1.18 million) prize for creating a food generator concept that turns plastics into protein.
The 2021 Future Insight Prize went to Ting Lu, a professor of bioengineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and Stephen Techtmann, associate professor of biological sciences at Michigan Technological University, for their project. It uses microbes to degrade plastic waste and convert it into food.
The German science and technology company Merck sponsors the prize. Global plastics production totaled 368 million metric tons in 2019. The only decline in the past 60 years came because the COVID-19 pandemic choked production of goods worldwide as factories sputtered and shipping slowed down.
[...] The two scientists, who call their project a food “generator,” focused on finding an efficient, economical and versatile technology that finds a use for plastics that are at the end of their useful life and would otherwise end up in landfills or oceans.
The resulting foods “contain all the required nutrition, are nontoxic, provide health benefits and additionally allow for personalization needs,” according to Merck.
The scientists learned to exploit synthetically altered microbes, programming them genetically to convert waste into food.
Gives new meaning to the phrase you are what you eat.
Nicholas S. McCarty, Rodrigo Ledesma-Amaro. Synthetic Biology Tools to Engineer Microbial Communities for Biotechnology, Trends in Biotechnology (DOI: 10.1016/j.tibtech.2018.11.002)