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A team of students from Imperial College London have been recognised for their project, which uses harmless engineered bacteria to turn landfill waste into a biodegradable plastic or bio-plastic.


Harmless bacteria have been engineered to turn landfill waste into a biodegradable plastic by a team of students from Imperial College London. According to the team the bio-plastic uses include syringes in healthcare as well as other disposable devices that are used in hospitals.

A method for breaking down the bio-plastic has also been developed by the team so that when it is no longer needed it can be easily disposed of.

In order to break down landfill waste and turn it into bio-plastic, the team at Imperial College re-engineered the genetic code of harmless E.coli bacteria. Plants are the main ingredient used in current methods for making bio-plastics, resulting in valuable agricultural land that has to be used to grow the plants.

The team comments that using waste material as a means of creating bio-plastics instead of plants will free up agricultural land so that it can be used more productively for agriculture, their method can also be increased to industrial levels.

Imperial team member Jemma Pilcher says:

”In the future, our system could provide a sustainable way to make an environmentally-friendly alternative to petroleum-based plastics, which would reduce our dependency on oil. Additionally, this system would divert rubbish away from landfill sites and incinerators, which have very negative effects on the environment by releasing toxins, and instead use it as a resource.”

“Technologies such as ours could one day be used to deal with the global challenge of how to dispose of ever increasing levels of waste,” added team member Margaria Kopniczky. ”Perhaps in the future we will have household appliances that contain engineered bacteria that turn domestic waste into new 3D printed bio-plastic objects such as a plastic container to store the leftovers from a meal.”

Imperial College London

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