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METABOLIX produces « green plastic »

4. Environment

Green design




150 million tons of plastic are produced every year, inducing great impacts on the environment when being manufactured (oil consumption, greenhouse gases emission) and at the end of the plastic’s life cycle (the waste contaminates the ground and the water during hundreds of years).


-  Limiting the environmental impacts of plastic (production, waste)

-  Developing a biodegradable product


A Scottish researcher called Oliver Peoples discovered a new bacterium at the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) .This bacterium is fed with high-sugar corn syrup and discharges polymer through the sugar it hasn’t used to reproduce itself.

After 20 years of genetic studies on molecular biology, Oliver Peoples could modify the bacterium so that it converts 83% of the sugar that has been eaten into plastic.

In 1992, the inventor created a start-up company called Metabolix, to exploit the commercial potential of his discovery. In 2004, the company was able to produce half the common plastic types from corn syrup. The method used is energy-saving, as bioplastic is cold–produced and manufactured without pressure. The vegetable material (the corn) the bacterium is fed with uses solar energy thanks to photosynthesis, and absorbs gas carbon. Fallow lands in the United States are used. The qualities of the product are the same as those of traditional plastic: resistance, resilience and ergonomy. The waste is completely degradable within less than a month. Some big industrial companies got interested in this product, and Metabolix linked up with an agro-food industrialist to subsidize the construction of a first plant that is able to produce 150,000t of natural plastic a year.


- Metabolix got a specific know-how and a technological advance

-  It is reaching big clients

- 50,000t were produced in 2007, the amount reached 150,000t with the new plant.


- Energy savings are implemented; there is also a reduction in greenhouse gases emissions

- The waste is 100% biodegradable

- The approach can be spread to new techniques

1,7 million d’euros
United States

Mise à jour le 30/05/2016

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