Most plastics start out from organic compounds, many of which are petrochemicals, that is, petroleum-based. In order to reduce the demand on petroleum reserves, and the pollution associated with them, there are many synthetic plastics being produced today.
Japanese researchers recently developed a synthetic plastic based on an extract from the freshwater microorganism, Euglena, that is nearly indistinguishable from other synthetic or petroleum-based plastics.
The process starts by raising colonies of Euglena in a polysaccharide solution. The resulting waste products, long-chain natural polymers, are used to synthesize plastic. The new synthetic plastic contains as much as 70% plant material, and is comparable to other bioplastics, including polylactic acid, Nylon 11, and petroleum-based ABS [acrylonitrile butadiene styrene], but much more heat-resistant.
Euglena-based synthetic plastic could be even more efficient than other bioplastics because underwater photosynthetic organisms use solar energy much more efficiently than land-based photosynthetic plants.
Additionally, Euglena thrive in carbon dioxide [CO2]-saturated conditions that other plants find toxic, such as food factory waste water, which could significantly reduce the energy requirements of raising Euglena feedstocks for synthetic plastic production.