From FSS: Tequila byproducts can be used to create plastic

Also posted here.

One of the major issues we face today is that of waste. We produce things more quickly than we can take care of the trash, and in a society that embraces planned obsolescence, more of that waste is trickier to dispose of safely. Even waste from food production is becoming a problem, but the tequila industry at least may have an option for their future.

A study (heads-up: it’s in Spanish) from the University of Guadalajara found that the bacterium Actinobacillus succinogenes, found in cow stomachs among other places, can take the sugars from byproducts of tequila production to create succinic acid. This might not sound too exciting until you know that succinic acid is one of the components of biodegradable plastic. All cells produce it, but it’s normally derived chemically from petroleum when used to make plastic.

Model by Ben Mills from Wikimedia Commons via public domain


The main obstacle here is one of scaling: Actinobacillus succinogenes can only produce 20 grams of succinic acid from one liter of tequila production waste, and the lab that did the study only has about 3 liters of acid from their trials. However, plans to increase the volume are in the works once scientists can recreate the small-scale environment in a larger container to support production; a separate plant in Barcelona is already working on industrial-scale succinic acid production.

If this can get off the ground on a reasonable scale, I think this is a great idea. I’m not sure of exact numbers regarding the self-sustainability of it, but if the tequila industry were to at least produce some of their bottles with plastic made from their own byproducts, that would be pretty awesome. That’s less plastic that has to be created from petroleum, which is something we have enough problems with already, plus it’s biodegradable, which completes the cycle.

What do you think? Can the byproducts of byproducts be the future of containers?


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