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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.

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  • (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.