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Harnessing nature to enhance planetary sustainability


A waxworm poking holes in a polyethylene sheet from a plastic bag (blue). The cocoon produced by the waxworm appears on top of a sheet of beehive wax. Small fragments of plastic are attached to the outside of the cocoon (blue debris). Credit: Simoan Gaddi (CC-BY 4.0, creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

As the Earth’s population grows, the demands of modern lifestyles place increasing pressures on the global environment. Proposed solutions to preserve and enhance planetary sustainability can sometimes be more harmful than helpful. However, technologies that harness natural processes can be more successful.

These technologies are the focus of the latest issue of the Open Access Journal Biology PLUSwhich includes a special collection to be published March 31 of papers highlighting biology-based solutions that can be applied to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, eliminate non-biodegradable plastics, produce food or energy more sustainably, and more.

In one of the papers, Federica Bertocchini and Clemente Arias of the Spanish Council for Natural Research Identify recent research that supports the possibility of using insects to reduce plastic waste, particularly polyethylene. This insect enzyme could serve as a more sustainable alternative to current methods of incineration and mechanical recycling.

Bertocchini adds, “Biodegradation of plastic: the technology is not quite there yet, but insect enzymes may represent the tipping point in this field.”

In another article focusing on plastics, Sandra Pasco Ortiz of Universidade del Valle de Atimajac, MexicoExamines ongoing initiatives to develop fully recyclable bioplastics—a broad class of materials that are either made from renewable sources and may or may not be biodegradable, or made from fossil sources but are biodegradable. Pascoe Ortiz reveals that these initiatives, while promising, are still a long way from solving the problem of plastic pollution.

Harnessing nature to enhance planetary sustainability

Technology transition from the first generation to the fourth generation of biofuels. Credit: Dania Awad/TUM (CC-BY 4.0, creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

Pasco Ortiz adds: “Plastic pollution is a serious problem that needs to be addressed, there are some materials that can help solve it, but the most important thing is to be aware of the use and disposal we give to different products regardless of the material.”

Turning to the challenge of carbon dioxide pollution, Peter Ralph and Matthew Bernice of the University of Technology Sydney, Australia describe the possibility of using photosynthetic algae to capture carbon dioxide produced as a byproduct for a variety of industrial applications, keeping greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. The researchers have already applied this approach through a collaboration with a brewery.

Adds Ralph, “Algae carbon capture and synthesis (CCM) has great potential to help mitigate climate change by capturing atmospheric carbon and using it to create long-term carbon-storing bioproducts. In addition, CCM offers many industrial benefits, such as Reducing the cost of chemical processes and enabling the use of advanced manufacturing, potentially transforming many industries into climate-positive bio-manufacturing.”

Thomas Brock Research Group (Werner Siemens Chair of Synthetic Biotechnology) at the Technical University of Munich, Germany Summarizes the current status of available biofuel technologies. Advanced biofuels are sustainable “quick” alternatives to fossil equivalents and complement other renewable energy resources, thus eliminating carbon dioxide2 emissions. The researchers outline a final set of policy recommendations for the rapid global deployment of these technologies.

Harnessing nature to enhance planetary sustainability

Photobioreactor for experimental plants for the production of oleaginous algae biomass at the TUM AlgaeTech Centre. Lipids extracted from biomass are used as third generation aviation biofuels. Credit: Thomas Brück/TUM (CC-BY 4.0, creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

Brooke adds, “Advanced biofuels do not compete with agriculture and can be achieved through greenhouse gas-neutral or even negative processes today. These processes can contribute to energy security and sustainable mobility but require a stable legislative framework along with financial incentives to bring the industry to scale. and applicability.”

Together with other articles in the collection, these perspectives can help inform and guide additional policies and initiatives for keeping the earth green.

more information:
Federica Bertocchini et al, Why have we not yet solved the challenge of plastic degradation by biological means?, Biology PLUS (2023). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3001979

Sandra Pasco-Ortiz, Is Bioplastics the Solution to Plastic Pollution?, Biology PLUS (2023). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3002045

Peter J. Ralph et al, Save the Planet with Green Industries Using Algae, Biology PLUS (2023). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3002061

Philip Cavilios et al., Potential of first- to fourth-generation biofuels, Biology PLUS (2023). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3002063

Provided by the Public Library of Science

the quote: Harnessing Nature to Enhance Planetary Sustainability (2023, March 31) Retrieved March 31, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-03-harnessing-nature-planetary-sustainability.html

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