Skip to Content

A Bioplastic Goes Commercial

Making biodegradable plastic bags.

The image at left shows genetically engineered bacteria that consume corn sugar and produce a polyester that can be used to make biodegradable plastics, including the types used in shopping bags. (The polyester–called polyhydroxyalkanoate, or PHA–is visible inside the bloated cells.) After years of research and development, the bacteria are almost ready for use on the commercial scale. In a joint venture with ­Metabolix of Cambridge, MA, which makes the microbes, Archer Daniels Midland is building a plant adjacent to its corn mill in Clinton, IA, that will use them to generate 110 million pounds of PHA annually. The new plant will produce more than 300 times as much PHA as an existing ­Metabolix pilot plant. “We’ll reduce greenhouse­-gas emissions by about two-thirds and petroleum usage by about 80 percent compared to traditional petroleum­-based plastics,” says ­Metabolix vice president Brian Igoe. And bags made from Metabolix’s polymer will degrade even if they drift into wetlands or the ocean. The compound will cost three times as much as petroleum-based polymers. Peter Fairley

Keep Reading

Most Popular

images created by Google Imagen
images created by Google Imagen

The dark secret behind those cute AI-generated animal images

Google Brain has revealed its own image-making AI, called Imagen. But don't expect to see anything that isn't wholesome.

AGI is just chatter for now concept
AGI is just chatter for now concept

The hype around DeepMind’s new AI model misses what’s actually cool about it

Some worry that the chatter about these tools is doing the whole field a disservice.

Hoan Ton-That, CEO of Clearview AI
Hoan Ton-That, CEO of Clearview AI

The walls are closing in on Clearview AI

The controversial face recognition company was just fined $10 million for scraping UK faces from the web. That might not be the end of it.

spaceman on a horse generated by DALL-E
spaceman on a horse generated by DALL-E

This horse-riding astronaut is a milestone in AI’s journey to make sense of the world

OpenAI’s latest picture-making AI is amazing—but raises questions about what we mean by intelligence.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.