As climate change threatens our future, many companies are turning to biotechnology to find ways to make our lives more sustainable. Biotechnology is a field that is uniquely positioned to replace harmful chemicals and materials with more sustainable alternatives. This scientific discipline stems from the evolution of living organisms that have been known to recycle and produce various types of compounds. These processes can break down waste and make valuable materials less environmentally harmful.
There are many applications of biotechnology that could make a significant difference in sustainability. Here are the areas where it is already making an impact.
One of the most significant issues we currently face is plastic pollution. Due to the production of plastic plants, as well as the tons of non-biodegradable plastic that are thrown away daily, the environment is constantly threatened. New technologies that combine biology with the process of plastics could potentially offer a more sustainable solution.
In Amsterdam, Avantium is developing a process to produce 100% bioplastics from forestry and agricultural waste. It’s working with some of the world’s biggest companies, such as Danone and Coca-Cola, to produce eco-friendly yogurt cups and bottles. In France, another company called Carbios uses microbes to break down and recycle plastic bottles. Other companies that are developing bioplastics include Futerro and Synbra.
- Enzymatic detergents
Enzyme-based detergents are one of the first applications of biotechnology in the field of industrial hygiene. During the 60s, Novozymes, a Danish biotechnology company, started selling these products. These are made from microorganisms capable of breaking down hard stains, such as blood. Unlike chemical alternatives, these products are biodegradable.
New generations of enzymatic laundry products have improved their performance over time. One of these leading advantages is that they can operate at lower temperatures, which can help reduce the amount of energy spent on washing clothes. Enzyme-based products can also be used to thoroughly clean medical equipment.
One of the most significant factors contributing to air pollution is the production of fossil fuels. In recent years, using biofuels from crops has become more common. However, these crops compete for agricultural land, which can cause deforestation and higher food prices. Companies use microorganisms to break down forestry and agricultural waste to produce fuels. One of the companies working with Audi is Global Bioenergies, which is focused on using sustainable sources such as wood chips and wheat straw.
- Cultivated meat
Through biotechnology, it could be possible to grow meat without the animal, reducing the amount of energy and water used in the process. This method could also help reduce the use of antibiotics in the meat industry.In 2020, Singapore became the first nation to approve the commercialization of an artificial meat product developed by a US company known as Eat Just. The following year, the number of companies developing meat alternatives increased significantly. These include Mosa Meat in the Netherlands, Higher Steaks in the UK, Super Meat in Israel, and Finless Foods. Others are working on replacing animal products such as cheese, eggs, and meat.