HomeIndustry InsightsVirginia Tech Researchers Develop Biodegradable Bioplastics from Food Waste

Virginia Tech Researchers Develop Biodegradable Bioplastics from Food Waste

Researchers at Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences are pioneering the creation of biodegradable bioplastics from food waste, aiming to transform discarded food into everyday materials with a new purpose.

Led by Zhiwu "Drew" Wang, associate professor in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering, the project addresses pressing environmental issues like plastic pollution in oceans and greenhouse gas emissions linked to food waste. The innovative approach involves converting food waste into fats using microorganisms, which are then processed into bioplastics. Similar to fermentation processes in microbreweries, this method ensures that the bioplastics can easily decompose, thereby reducing marine pollution caused by persistent microplastics. 

The pilot project introduces an affordable modular bioprocessing system designed to demonstrate the feasibility and scalability of producing these biodegradable bioplastics on a national and global scale. Collaborating with experts across various disciplines and involving undergraduate and graduate students, the team focuses on purifying polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) to create high-value bioplastic products, including home compostable packaging. 

Chloe Taylor, a senior in sustainable biomaterials, expressed enthusiasm about the project's potential to provide sustainable alternatives to traditional plastics, inspiring her to pursue further studies in the field. 

The initiative marks a significant step towards reducing plastic pollution and promoting environmental sustainability through innovative bioplastic solutions.

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