Plastics without pollution? Lab-made enzymes could be key to creating new bioplastics

A London-based start-up, FabricNano, is developing a system to produce plastics without oil and gas in a bid to make bio-based and sustainable chemicals more commonly available.

The chemical sector is currently the largest industrial consumer of both oil and gas, according to the International Energy Agency.

FabricNano’s bio-manufacturing tech, on the other hand, uses enzymes, a natural catalyst typically made of a protein that accelerates chemical reactions.

“Proteins are these beautiful machinery that are capable of doing chemistry that we find all over nature and all within biology,” said Grant Aarons, the CEO, and co-founder of FabricNano.

“Essentially, a protein can do any material production and any chemical production that we can think of today”.

‘We need better materials’

FabricNano specialises in cell-free biomanufacturing – the process of engineering biological processes outside of a cell to produce a product, biological materials, biofuels and chemicals.

Biomanufacturing uses biological systems such as living microorganisms and enzymes to produce molecules used in the agricultural, food, material, energy, and pharmaceutical industries.

FabricNano argues that using enzymes can break the chemical industry’s current reliance on fossil fuels to make products such as plastics or pharmaceutical drugs.

The company says the production cost for most commodity chemicals including plastics is currently low because the petrochemicals used in the production are cheap.

“In order to attack that you need to make an enzymatic process that approaches those techno-economics,” said Eliza Eddison, co-founder and VP of Operations at FabricNano.

Enzymes are already used to create chemicals and foodstuffs, but designing them to survive in an industrial production process and turn them into plastic, paint or pharmaceuticals without using oil or gas may be some way off.

“We need better materials that are more symbiotic with our way of life on planet Earth. But we do need to make systematic change and we need to have a lot of solutions to solve some of the problems we’re facing today,” Aarons said.

Uganda scientists invent bioplastics for wrapping nursery seedlings from farm wastes

Agricultural scientists from Uganda have invented biodegradable plastics for use in wrapping nursery seedlings made from farm wastes in a bid to face off non-biodegradable plastics that seedlings nursery operators have been using and which causes environmental degradation. 

The new invention was revealed by scientists from the National Agricultural Crop Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) in Wakiso District last month while releasing their research findings about the use of agricultural waste to develop biodegradable plastics. 

According to Dr. Ephraim Nuwamanya, the head of the biochemistry unit at NaCRRI, the invention is in collaboration with the University of Bangor, UK, with funding worth £80,000 (about Shs369m) from the UK government running for 10 months. 

“There is an extensive need to produce biodegradable plastics that have the ability to decompose in a short period of time hence saving the environment,” said Nuwamanya  adding that nursery seed operators are using millions of tonnes of plastics which they later dump in farmlands, leading to soil degradation. 

The production of the biodegradable plastics, he says, can be achieved using agricultural waste such as banana and cassava peels, maize waste, wheat straw and rice straw, among others. 

Statistics by the country’s National Agricultural Research Organisation (Naro) indicates that Uganda produces about 1.4 million tonnes per year of agricultural waste from 6.5 million vegetable processing and other crops residues. 

It is because of this that NaCRRI scientists came up with the concept of processing biodegradable plastics, specifically for wrapping seedlings in nursery beds. 

Biodegradable plastics making process 

While developing the product, the team collects agricultural waste from plants, including cassava, maize, bananas and sorghum, among others, from farmer fields. 

The materials are then left to dry and crushed into powder form before being mixed with water and sodium chloride. The solution is then heated, thereby producing a paste. 

The paste is then passed through a machine called thinner to make a paper-like lining. It is then put in an oven to dry. 

This is later put in a silk gel and dried once again in order to come up with a bioplastic product. 

The production was performed at Bangor University in the UK, who have the required machinery for processing the product. 

They processed 90 metres of the biodegradable plastic sheets, which were then shipped to Uganda. 

Advantages of the bioplastics 

According to the scientists, biodegradable plastics form organic matter, which once planted with seedlings in the soil, degrades after six months, thereby adding nutrients to the soil. 

Once mass production kicks off in the country, the project will be an income-earning initiative to farmers because the waste material will be purchased from farmers. 

And now, Nuwamanya and team intend to formalise intellectual property issues with Uganda Bureau of Standards in order to roll out the technology with a call on private sector to come on board for commercialization purposes. 

Nearly 90% of people call on UK government to support compostables as “solution to plastic crisis”

New data shows that the majority of UK adults support substituting conventional plastic with compostable alternatives and want local authorities and government to do more to incentivise the collection of compostable packaging. 

A survey of 1734 UK adults conducted by YouGov found 89% of respondents support local councils being required to collect all recyclable or compostable packaging from households.  

The survey also showed that over 60% of people across the UK expressed concern about the amount of plastic waste created in their households from daily life. 86% of people also supported enabling the collection of compostable packaging alongside food waste. 

The survey was commissioned by TIPA, a developer and manufacturer of compostable packaging solutions. 

In addition to improving collection services, the survey also canvassed views on a range of other policy interventions to support tackling plastic waste. 

Plastics are clogging up our seas and rivers with terrifying consequences for our marine life and the wider environment. 

85% of people supported banning conventional plastic packaging where alternative compostable solutions were available, with 70% of people viewing a product more positively when packaged in compostable packaging. 

When asked whether they felt Government, brands and retailers were making as much effort as possible (with 0 being the least and 10 being the most) to reduce plastic waste, the survey showed that over half of the public think the Government, brands and retailers are not doing enough to tackle plastic waste. 

Brands and retailers were deemed to be doing slightly more than the Government to reduce plastic waste with 44% rating the Government’s achievements as 5 or above, compared to 49% for brands and retailers. 

Commenting on the survey, Co-founder and CEO of TIPA, Daphna Nissenbaum, said: “Plastics are clogging up our seas and rivers with terrifying consequences for our marine life and the wider environment. They are now so pervasive that microplastics have even been detected in human blood. 

“It is encouraging to see such public support for compostables, but without government investment and the appropriate policy frameworks, the required collection infrastructure is unlikely to be in place to respond to overwhelming consumer appetite to mainstream compostable packaging. 

Nissenbaum says that the findings of the survey confirm that DEFRA would command “broad public support” if it introduced a new effective policy mandating the collection of compostable packaging alongside food waste across England to ensure that materials are composted at end of life. 

“If the Government is committed to achieving its plastic reduction targets by 2025 it should consider supporting the development and growth of the compostables industry – or risk handing the advantage to polluting conventional plastic.” 

(According to The Circular: 

Japan’s Mitsui eyes building $550m U.S. bioplastics plant

Bio-PET factory, one of world’s largest, would cut carbon emissions tied to drink bottles.  

TOKYO — Japanese trading house Mitsui & Co. will decide next year whether to build a bioplastics factory in the southeastern U.S., creating one of the largest production sites worldwide for the plant-based packaging material. 

The proposed bio-PET plastics factory, with an annual capacity of 400,000 tonnes, could open in 2025. Investment is estimated at $550 million. Mitsui has signed a memorandum of understanding with U.S.-based chemical company Petron Scientech to explore a joint venture. 

Bio-PET, short for bio-based polyethylene terephthalate, is a plant-derived version of the plastic produced from fossil fuels and commonly used in drink bottles. Carbon dioxide emissions from the factory’s bio-PET plastic are expected to be 70% to 80% lower than from petroleum-derived plastic. 

The Mitsui factory would procure bioethanol made from plants such as American corn and Brazilian sugar cane to produce the bio-PET plastic. Recycled bottles would be mixed into the plastic, which then would be sold to beverage makers as a container material. 

Global bio-PET plastic production capacity now totals around 1 million tons, Mitsui said, a figure that would soar if the plant is built. 

Beverage makers worldwide have set goals to reduce their environmental impact, such as by increasing the use of recycled materials in packaging, but that requires an infrastructure for collecting containers. Bio-PET can complement recycling. 

According to Nikkei Asia: 

New Zealand to mandate compostable stickers for imported fruit starting mid-2025

The Government of New Zealand has passed legislation that will restrict a wide range of plastic products to be sold in New Zealand, including non-compostable produce stickers. Produce stickers for domestically-produced fruit and vegetables in New Zealand are required to be compostable by 2023, while imported produce will need to have compostable stickers by mid-2025.

In mid-2022 the Government of New Zealand introduced Waste Minimisation (Plastic and Related Products) Regulations into Parliament, which were passed into law. The stated aim of the regulations is to protect animal and plant life, and protection of the enviroment as a whole, through banning a number of plastic products. The proposed date of entry into full force of all of these regulations is 2025.

The regulations will apply to any individual, business, or retailer who sells (including suppliers) or manufactures any of the targeted plastic item(s) in New Zealand.

This includes:

  • Manufacturers
  • Businesses selling the prohibited plastics (this includes providing them for free)
  • Hospitality businesses providing these products

As part of the regulations, the Government of New Zealand has announced 3 tranches of restrictions, with some having begun on October 1, 2022, the second set to go into force in 2023, and the third set to be implemented in mid-2025

Tranche One:

The following products are no longer permitted to be sold or manufactured in New Zealand since October 1, 2022:

  1. Plastic drink stirrers.
  2. Plastic stemmed cotton buds.
  3. Oxo- and photo- degradable plastic products.
  4. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pre-formed food trays and containers.
  5. Polystyrene takeaway food and beverage packaging, for example some sushi trays and takeaway containers.
  6. Expanded polystyrene takeaway food and beverage packaging, for example foamed cups, bowls, plates, and some grocery products.
Plastic products banned from 1 October 2022 (tranche 1) and alternatives

Tranche Two (July 2023)

There are several single-use products due to be phased out in 2023. The Government documents define and explain the products for removal, as well as present alternatives for these products, and this information is included below.

  1. Plastic produce bags: A single use produce bag is something consumers see most commonly in the fruit and vegetable sections of the supermarket. They can contain any amount of plastic (including recyclable, degradable or compostable plastics) and are used for the purpose of carrying fruit or vegetables. Alternatives include reusable or paper bags. Pre-packaged produce bags that are sealed before placing on sale are not in scope for this phase out.
  2. Plastic tableware: Single-use plastic tableware is designed for use once or a limited number of times before being thrown away. Plastic tableware includes plates, bowls, platters, trays, and cutlery made primarily of any type of plastic (including recyclable, degradable and compostable plastics) and sold for the purpose of eating food. Cutlery includes any utensil that can be used to eat food – spoons, forks, knives, sporks, splayds and chopsticks. Alternatives include reusable tableware, paper, cardboard, or bamboo alternatives. Plastic food containers and plastic-lined paper alternatives are not included in this phase out.
  3. Plastic straws: Plastic drinking straws that contain any plastic (including recyclable, degradable, or compostable plastics) will be banned. Alternatives include going without a straw, reusable 4 metal, bamboo or silicon straws, edible straws, or paper straws.
  4. Non-home compostable plastic produce labels: Non-home compostable produce labels are made from plastic and are found attached to fruits or vegetables sold in New Zealand. This label is made partly or primarily of plastic which is not home compostable. Alternatives include home compostable labels, or signage at point of sale. Produce labels on imported produce are exempt until mid-2025. This phase out does not include labels on produce for export from New Zealand. Note: Home compostable means meeting one of the following standards: AS 5810-2010 Biodegradable plastics—Biodegradable plastics suitable for home composting. NF T51-800 Plastics – specifications for plastics suitable for home composting.

Tranche Three (mid-2025)

A number of additional items will be restricted as of mid-2025. The Government documents explains these products and their alternatives, and excerpts are presented below:

  1. All PVC food and beverage packaging: PVC food and beverage packaging is a tray, container (either with a lid or without a lid), packet, bowl, cup, film or wrap sold as packaging that contains food and beverage products or with the purpose of containing food and beverage products or with the purpose of containing food and beverage products for sale and made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Common examples include some biscuit trays and containers. 5 Potential alternatives include reusable packaging, recyclable plastic.
  2. All polystyrene food and beverage packaging: Polystyrene food and beverage packaging is a tray, container (either with a lid or without a lid), packet, bowl or cup sold as packaging that contains food and beverage products or with the purpose of containing food and beverage products and is made from rigid polystyrene including high-impact polystyrene. Examples include yoghurt and some dairy bottles. Potential alternatives include reusable packaging, recyclable plastic (type 1, 2 and 5) or paper packaging.

Produce Stickers

The Government of New Zealand plans to place restrictions on non-compostable produce stickers (including fresh fruit) based on a two phased roll out. This will start with a mandate for domestically produced fruits and vegetables in 2023, and then in mid-2025 will include a requirement for imported produce. The aim of this later requirement for imported produce is to allow suppliers time to prepare their systems to change to a compostable sticker by 2025. Compostable stickers on produce exported from New Zealand are not included in the regulations.

For the mandate on domestic produce in 2023, the government is providing a transitional period until mid-2025 to help producers meet the deadlines by requiring:

  1. Functional purpose labels only (country of origin, PLU, database, brand authentication, variety identification).
  2. Minimum of industrial compostable certification.
  3. Permit hybrid home compostable technologies where the entire construction may not be home compostable, but a majority is.
  4. Permit the use of fully home compostable products that are still in the process of achieving final certification.


Prepping bio-based nanomaterials for the market

An open call issued by an EU-backed project is giving SMEs and other companies the chance to make their bio-based technologies and solutions market-ready. 

Spanish plastics technology company AIMPLAS has announced that its reactive extrusion pilot line is ready to produce bio-based nanomaterials for agricultural and food packaging solutions. The pilot line is part of the EU-funded BIOMAC project, whose Open Innovation Test Bed (OITB) ecosystem offers the opportunity for technologies and solutions using nano-enabled bio-based materials to be upscaled and prepared for market applications. Following 2 years of development, BIOMAC is now making its services available to European SMEs and other stakeholders in the bio-nanomaterials sector. 

The OITB ecosystem offers technological and market-oriented services spanning the entire value chain through four hubs. The pilot plant hub consists of 17 pilot lines developed by BIOMAC for upscaling bio-based technologies. Project partner AIMPLAS runs the 11th pilot line, which is a reactive extrusion line for polymerising polylactic acid (PLA) and its copolymers and producing PLA-based nanocomposites. 

Added to the pilot plant hub are the validation hub, the value chain assessment hub and the market uptake hub. Services offered through the validation hub are quality control and characterisation, standardisation assessment, and process validation and modelling. The value chain hub focuses on sustainability assessment, supply management smoothness and adherence to circular economy principles. Last, the market uptake hub’s services address a technology’s business, legal and data handling issues through data and innovation management, health and safety, and regulation analysis services. 

As reported in the project blog, the AIMPLAS pilot line is being used in two different test cases within the BIOMAC project. For the agricultural sector, it is developing PLA-based masterbatches with nanoparticles for mulching applications, as well as PLA copolymers for injection moulding applications. In the sphere of food packaging solutions, it is being used to develop PLA nanocomposite formulations for blown film applications. 

Opportunities for bio-nanomaterial companies 

Having validated its pilot lines through five internal test cases in the automotive, agricultural, food packaging, construction and printed electronics fields, the project has issued an open call for expressions of interest. Launched on 15 December 2022, the open call is aimed at SMEs, start-ups, research and technology companies, and midcaps interested in developing their bio-nanomaterial projects within BIOMAC’s OITB ecosystem for free. The aim is to select five additional test cases (e.g. textiles, medical-biomedical, tissue engineering, single use items) utilising bio-nanomaterials. 

Test case proposals must be submitted for preliminary evaluation by 30 April 2023. However, the final cut-off date for submissions is 15 June 2023. The selected test cases will be implemented from September 2023 to December 2024. The BIOMAC (European Sustainable Biobased nano Materials Community (BIOMAC)) project’s online presentation of the open call is available here. 

(According to: CORDIS: 

More single-use plastics banned in New South Wales (Australia)


Single-use plastics (designed to be used once and disposed of) may be cheap and convenient, but the cost to the environment is enormous.

The New South Wales (NSW) Government is taking steps towards going “plastic-free” with a ban on certain single-use plastic products.

Previously, On 1 June 2022, the supply of lightweight plastic bags was banned in NSW. From 1 November 2022,  the supply of single-use plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery, bowls and plates and expanded polystyrene (EPS) food service items will be banned in NSW. The supply of single-use plastic cotton buds and microbeads in rinse-off personal care products will also be banned state-wide.

The National Retail Association, on behalf of NSW Government, are hosting weekly online Q&A sessions, designed for retailers, hospitality, suppliers or community organisations directly impacted by the NSW ban to ‘pop in’, ask us questions and clarify their obligations.

What items are banned:

  • Single-use plastic straws, stirrers and swizzle sticks, and cutlery, including forks, spoons, knives, sporks, splayds, chopsticks, and food picks, will be banned.
  • Single-use plastic bowls and plates (including those made from biodegradable plastics, compostable plastics, or bio-plastics).
  • Expanded polystyrene food service items (EPS), such as clamshells, cups, plates and bowls will be banned in NSW.
  • All single-use plastic cotton buds
  • Rinse-off personal care products containing plastic microbeads, such as face and body cleansers, exfoliants and masks, shampoo, conditioner, hair dyes, and toothpaste. will be banned within NSW.
  • Lightweight plastic shopping bags

The bans applies even if these items are made from biodegradable plastics, compostable plastics, or bio-plastics. This includes those made from Australian certified compostable plastic.

What items are still allowed:

  • Serving utensils such as salad servers or tongs
  • items that are an integrated part of the packaging used to seal or contain food or beverages or are included within or attached to that packaging, through a machine-automated process (such as a straw attached to a juice box or a spoon included with a yogurt).
  • Exemptions apply in certain settings to ensure continued access to single-use plastic straws for people with a disability or medical need.
  • Businesses who serve food or drinks, such as cafes and pubs, can provide a single straw from behind the counter on request to people with a disability or medical need. Straws must not be freely available or visible to customers.
  • Single-use plastic bowls designed or intended to have a spill-proof lid, such as those used for a takeaway soup.
  • Plates or bowls that are an integrated part of the packaging used to seal or contain food or beverages (such as a plastic plate included in a frozen meal).
  • EPS fresh produce trays such as those used for raw meat, seafood, fruit or vegetables
  • EPS packaging, including consumer and business-to-business packaging and transport containers
  • EPS food service items that are an integrated part of the packaging used to seal or contain food or beverages, or are including within or attached to that packaging, through a machine-automated process
  • Reusable cotton bud sticks, such as those with replaceable ends
  • Single-use cotton buds with wooden, bamboo or paper stems.
  • Manufacturers have been phasing out microbeads in personal care products for some time, with approximately 99.3% of products microbead free.
  • Produce bags and deli bags
  • Bin liners
  • Human or animal waste bags
  • Bags used to contain items for medical purposes
  • Compostable liners for Kitchen to Compost service


Maha govt (India) tweaks policy on single-use plastics, allow products made from compostable materials

The Maharastra government has permitted the production of straws, cups, plates, forks and spoons made from ‘compostable’ materials by making changes to the policy on single-use plastic, a senior official said.

Single-use products made from compostable materials have been permitted

Pravin Darade, Secretary of Environment and Climate Change Department, told that a panel which studied the ban on single-use plastic and thermocol items decided to permit items made from compostable material.
But it will be mandatory to get approval for these products from the Central Institute of Plastic Engineering and Technology (CIPET) and Central Pollution Control Board (CPBP), he said.
The move will give relief to plastic product manufacturers. There was a demand to allow production of single-use items made from degradable materials.
Previously, in 2018, the Maharashtra government has imposed a ban on single-use plastic and on August 2022, Indian government also released “Standard Operating Procedures” (SOP) for issuing certificate to manufacturers/ sellers of compostable plastic carry bags/ products.


HMSHost introduces BIOLO biodegradable straws to US airport dining venues

USA. Global travel restaurateur HMSHost has partnered with BIOLO to introduce PHA biodegradable straws in numerous dining venues at US airports across California, Washington, Texas, North Carolina, and Florida.

The partnership with Kansas City-headquartered BIOLO – secured through HMSHost’s packaging partner Baer & Associates – marks a milestone in HMSHost’s mission to significantly reduce the use of single-use plastic guest packaging in its North American airport operations.

HMSHost had previously tested paper straws as replacements for plastic ones but was not satisfied with the performance, the company said.

The environmentally-friendly BIOLO PHA biodegradable straws will play a major role in reducing HMSHost’s carbon footprint in North America

BIOLO compostable straws are produced from a renewable plant-based plastic alternative. The substance is known as polyhydroxyalkanoate, or PHA, which is TÜV-certified for biodegradation in soil, marine, and freshwater environments, as well as in home and industrial composting settings. The material breaks down in 180 days or less, leaving behind zero microplastics.

HMSHost Senior Director of Sustainability Ann Fondersmith said: “We are incredibly pleased with not only the quality and durability of BIOLO straws, but also the customer experience. During our testing period, we repeatedly heard from travellers that they couldn’t believe that the sturdy, functional straws they were using weren’t made of plastic.”

She added: “Through our partnership with BIOLO, HMSHost can deliver on our important commitment to reducing single-use plastics by eliminating plastic straws. Over the course of a year across our North American operations, this will equate to keeping millions of plastic straws out of our environment.”

BIOLO Product Manager Michael Delano said: “We are excited to partner with HMSHost to reduce plastic waste and the impact that we as humans make on the planet. Finding ways to reduce environmental impact while still providing people with guilt-free plastic alternatives that fit the rigorous standards of modern-day life is what the BIOLO brand is all about.”

In July 2018, HMSHost noted it became the first travel restaurateur to publicly announce the elimination of plastic straws to help address the harmful accumulation of plastics in oceans and landfills.

Following the announcement, the company said it immediately reduced travellers’ unnecessary plastic usage by removing straws from common areas of quick-service restaurants and only offering straws on request in casual dining restaurants.

At the time, HMSHost also launched a #SkipTheStraw marketing and social media campaign to educate customers on why the company was encouraging customers not to use straws, and the powerful impact it would have on the environment.

(According to The Moodle Davitt Report:

LVMH and Dow intend to collaborate to improve sustainable packaging across major perfume and cosmetics brands

Dow (Midland, MI, United States) and LVMH Beauty, a division of LVMH (Paris, France), the world leader in luxury and home to 75 iconic brands, will collaborate to accelerate the use of sustainable packaging across LVMH’s perfume and cosmetic products. 

This collaboration would enable both biobased and circular plastics to be integrated into several of the beauty multinational’s product applications without compromising functionality or quality of the packaging.

Biobased and circular plastics, which are made from biobased and plastic waste feedstock respectively, will be used to produce sustainable SURLYN Ionomers, polymers used to manufacture premium perfume caps and cosmetic cream jars. Within 2023, some of LVMH’s perfume packaging will include both biobased Surlyn and circular Surlyn. The sustainable Surlyn portfolio will deliver similar crystalline transparency and freedom of design expected from the rest of Dow’s Surlyn range, at a low carbon footprint.

“At LVMH, with our Life 360 program, we made the decision that our packaging will contain zero plastic from virgin fossil resources in a near future. Collaborating with Dow in developing sustainable Surlyn is key as this material is used in some of our iconic perfumes, starting with GUERLAIN La Petite Robe Noire. It is helping LVMH achieve our sustainability targets without any compromise on quality”, said Claude Martinez, Executive President and Managing Director of LVMH Beauty.

“Creating a circular economy takes every player in the value chain to commit to ambitious goals and challenge the status quo. Dow looks forward to supporting the sustainability journey of a leading global luxury brand”, said Karen S. Carter, President of Packaging & Specialty Plastics, Dow.

Biobased feedstocks for the production of biobased Surlyn include raw materials such as used cooking oil. As only waste residues or by-products from an alternative production process will be utilized, these raw feedstock materials will not consume extra land resources nor compete with the food chain.

Hard-to-recycle mixed plastic waste are transformed into circular Surlyn through advanced recycling technologies. The technologies break down waste plastics into their basic chemical elements using heat and pressure, creating raw material that is equivalent to those made from virgin fossil feedstock. This raw material, or circular feedstock, can be used in a wide range of packaging, giving waste that is currently going to landfill or being incinerated a second life.

Dow is collaborating with customers and other stakeholders to drive the transformation that is needed to tackle the challenges of climate change and the environment. This collaboration represents another key example of Dow’s continued effort to transform waste and alternative feedstock as per its Transform the Waste target announced in October 2022.  

(According to Bioplasticsmagazine: