Sunday, November 4, 2007

Growing Biodegradable Plastic

From Creation Moments

Have you ever been to a farm that grows plastic? In just a few years this scenario may become a common reality. Most plastics today are made from petroleum. Plastics made from petroleum are not considered biodegradable.

Researchers have been searching for a way to get plants to produce plastic resin. Such plant-produced resin could be used to make biodegradable plastics. The few biodegradable plastics now on the market are made by mixing starch or other plant material with petroleum products.

Researchers from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, have announced that they have engineered a plant that makes polymer resin. The resin is a biodegradable form of the petroleum-based plastic polypropylene that's now used to make containers and wrappers.

While the plant-produced polypropylene looks and acts like its petroleum-based cousin, it is easily broken down by enzymes in the soil. To produce the plastic, researchers added to a relative of the rape plant a gene that enables a common soil bacterium to make the plastic.

They say that preliminary studies indicate that plants can be engineered to make a variety of plastics. Further research is being done to increase plastic production and design a plant that is easy to grow on a large-scale.

Listen to an audio version at Creation Moments.

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