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posted by martyb on Monday July 26 2021, @10:32PM   Printer-friendly
from the soylent-[place-color-here]-is-plastic-garbage dept.

Food of the Future? 'Generator' Turns Plastic Trash Into Edible Protein:

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.


Journal Reference:
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)

Original Submission

 
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  • (Score: 0, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 26 2021, @10:54PM (4 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 26 2021, @10:54PM (#1160194)

    Expect the mantra "Plastic does not degrade!!!11" still be chanted everytime it helps someone in power pocket some money, however.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27 2021, @12:50AM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27 2021, @12:50AM (#1160232)

      "Engineered microbes that one tends to their needs in a special reactor are able to eat substances that can be obtained from preprocessing plastic waste and convert them to biomass."

      Notice any difference to "microbes CAN degrade plastic!"?

      • (Score: 0, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27 2021, @01:14AM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27 2021, @01:14AM (#1160241)

        If you fancy yourself smart enough to argue semantics, here is a test for you.
        1) Enter the three words: "plastic degrading microbes", into a search engine of your choice.
        2) Read a couple dozen of science articles from the hundreds returned by that search.
        3) Never again attempt to argue the matter you do not know shit about.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27 2021, @06:50AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27 2021, @06:50AM (#1160299)

          Is your point we can produce plastic waste at full speed, because the nature will sort out for us?
          If not, what is your point?

    • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Tuesday July 27 2021, @02:41PM

      by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday July 27 2021, @02:41PM (#1160358)

      If plastics become significantly biodegradable outside of a specially constructed bioreactor, then we're going to have far worse problems than overenthusiastic activists.

      Consider all the wiring, plumbing, and even structural elements that are currently made of plastic. Then consider the consequence of them silently rotting inside walls, cars, etc. Modern civilization is built upon the near-inviolability of plastic, at best it would be phenomenally expensive to fix everything if that changed.

  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 26 2021, @11:04PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 26 2021, @11:04PM (#1160199)

    There's no limit to what those whacky democrats would have us eat. I for one will stick with real food.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27 2021, @12:04AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27 2021, @12:04AM (#1160213)

      Plastic rice, anybody?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27 2021, @12:14AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27 2021, @12:14AM (#1160214)
      Democrats were not part of this story or the one you're referring to. Also Fox News had to issue a retraction cos it turns out Biden's not actually taking your burgers.

      In other words: Please keep making these posts cos they're HILARIOUS! :D
  • (Score: 2) by Gaaark on Monday July 26 2021, @11:32PM (1 child)

    by Gaaark (41) on Monday July 26 2021, @11:32PM (#1160207) Journal

    The resulting foods “contain all the required nutrition, are nontoxic

    Is this like the foods that don't have ingredients listed on the packaging that it actually does contain? Such as foods that don't list milk or gluten but actually contain it?

    "This product is nontoxic. May contain toxins."

    --
    --- Please remind me if I haven't been civil to you: I'm channeling MDC. ---Gaaark 2.0 ---
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27 2021, @03:57AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27 2021, @03:57AM (#1160273)

      For external use only.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by PinkyGigglebrain on Tuesday July 27 2021, @12:16AM (4 children)

    by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Tuesday July 27 2021, @12:16AM (#1160217)

    Sure, the synthetically altered microbes is probably made so it can only exist in the vats in a factory or lab, but as we all know sooner or later these bacteria will share some genes with a similar bacteria or fungus that can survive outside a factory/lab. I wonder whats going to happen when it does.

    I remember another engineered bacteria that was supposed to turn farm waste into Ethanol fuel for the farmers. Great idea, only it turned out that if the bacteria had gotten into the wild there was a very real possibility it could have killed most of the plant life on the surface of the Earth [wordpress.com], sea based vegetation would have been fine, probably..

    --
    "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27 2021, @12:58AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27 2021, @12:58AM (#1160238)

      I don't think the plastic goes in without preprocessing. Besides, no free lunch, if the microbes got the function to degrade plastic, very likely they paid for their specialization with something that's essential to survival outside a well tuned environ in a reactor.

      • (Score: 2) by PinkyGigglebrain on Tuesday July 27 2021, @02:13AM

        by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Tuesday July 27 2021, @02:13AM (#1160252)

        I hope your right. I know of too many situations where something that was supposed to be "impossible" or at minimum "highly improbable" happened in regards to GMOs. usually the results have been benign but the experts said it couldn't happen, and Nature found a way. to take advantage of what Man had wrought.

        But, as it is I'm not going to lose any sleep worrying about it.

        --
        "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27 2021, @01:08AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27 2021, @01:08AM (#1160239)

      The horror piece you linked, states: "anything beyond one or two parts of alcohol per million is lethal to all known plant life."
      Which is a blatant, stupid, crazy lie.
      https://www.ehow.co.uk/info_8006187_effect-alcohol-plants.html [ehow.co.uk]
      https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-313X.2001.01146.x [doi.org]

      When an article is fucked up THAT deeply with regard to a verifiable fact, anything else it states should also be assumed false unless supported by independent sources.

      • (Score: 2) by PinkyGigglebrain on Tuesday July 27 2021, @02:04AM

        by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Tuesday July 27 2021, @02:04AM (#1160251)

        My, my, such a strong response from an AC to an article critical of GMOs.

        From the first article you linked,

        Ethanol

        Ethanol, or grain alcohol, is produced by the fermentation of grains. Ethanol is the alcohol found in alcoholic beverages. Ethanol tends to stunt the growth of plants. When ethanol is applied to flowers, scientists note that, when watered with a 5 per cent solution of ethanol, plant growth slows. When a 10 per cent alcohol solution is applied, the plant becomes stressed and, with a 25 per cent alcohol solution, the plant dies. This can be useful if growth of the plant needs to be supressed, as is the case with many flowers. Once the flower gets larger, it wilts and loses its aesthetic value. Using ethanol, the flower can be kept smaller for a longer period of time.

                Ethanol, or grain alcohol, is produced by the fermentation of grains.
                When ethanol is applied to flowers, scientists note that, when watered with a 5 per cent solution of ethanol, plant growth slows.

        I guess I have to point out that there is a difference between exposing a full grown plant occasionally with an Ethanol solution as described in the quote above and trying to raise a plant from seed, which is what my linked article was talking about ,in the constant presence of Ethanol are very different things. Even the article you linked to points out that exposing plants to Ethanol will suppress it's growth. Just think what happens when you try to sprout a seed in that environment.

        As to the second article you linked it seems to be discussing the effect of Ethanol on a GMO plant specifically engineered to use Ethanol as a trigger for the genes that have been added to the plant. But I'll admit that by the time I got to the part about how they added genes from a fungus to the plant to use it as a trigger for other genetic modifications I was getting over my head. Perhaps you or another person who can actually understand rest of what it's talking about can explain it to the rest of us in splain English and also detail how it actually refutes the statements made by the botanists in the article I original linked that dealt with unmodified plants being exposed to constant Ethanol contamination of their roots.

        After reviewing the articles you linked I didn't find anything that refutes or contradicts the article I originally linked.

        --
        "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
  • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27 2021, @12:51AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27 2021, @12:51AM (#1160234)

    From Max Headroom: Zik-Zak Burger Paks which have their nutritional value doubled by the plastic wrapping

  • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27 2021, @03:47AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27 2021, @03:47AM (#1160267)

    So now I can, instead of sending plastic garbage bags crawling with cockroaches to the dump, send it down my throat. You know, they feed pigs garbage. I guess we are supposed to be lowly livestock now for our masters.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27 2021, @11:43AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27 2021, @11:43AM (#1160325)

    With a special genetic engineering program in the microbes, could the plastic waste be turned into plastic food that accumulates (in) breast tissue?

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27 2021, @02:21PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27 2021, @02:21PM (#1160354)

    A dead planet, with no plants, no animals, no life, except for one species: Humans; crawling all over the planet, occupying every square inch of it; all their oxygen and food being created from their waste by industrial processes.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27 2021, @04:07PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27 2021, @04:07PM (#1160387)

    oh i hope we can get a pen or spray with these 'em biolab-is-home bugs so that the tedious labour of stripping copper wire becomes much easier: just mark the length of plastic insolation with the bug-pen and awaaayyy they go, leaving behing bare copper.
    also should be fun if loaded into a firetruck and sprayed around in occupied enemy town: have a good all-day night!

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