We have been watching and waiting for this range of products to have their day, and Jim Robbins delivers an up to date account that gives hope:
From Lab to Market: Bio-Based Products Are Gaining Momentum
Propelled by government investment and shareholder demand, manufacturers are pushing to get bio-based products into the marketplace. These new materials — made from plants, fungi, and microbes — aim to replace those that contain toxins and are difficult to recycle or reuse.
In the 1930s, the DuPont company created the world’s first nylon, a synthetic polymer made from petroleum. The product first appeared in bristles for toothbrushes, but eventually it would be used for a broad range of products, from stockings to blouses, carpets, food packaging, and even dental floss.
Nylon is still widely used, but, like other plastics, it has environmental downsides: it is made from a nonrenewable resource; its production generates nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas; it doesn’t biodegrade; and it sheds microfibers that end up in food, water, plants, animals, and even the clouds.
Now, however, a San Diego-based company called Genomatica is offering an alternative: a so-called plant-based nylon made through biosynthesis, in which a genetically engineered microorganism ferments plant sugars to create a chemical intermediate that can be turned into nylon-6 polymer chips, and then textiles. The company has partnered with Lululemon, Unilever, and others to manufacture this and other bio-based products that safely decompose. Continue reading