Nowadays, everything is either made out of plastic, wrapped in plastic, or both. In our disposable world this results in an enormous amount of plastics in our landfills and oceans, and because these materials don’t breakdown, the problem is getting worse and worse every year. Many countries have started to implement a ban or a tax on plastic shopping bags in hopes of reducing our plastic waste, but what if we could stop using plastics altogether?
Prof. Emma Master, Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry at the University of Toronto, is looking for alternatives in plants. By observing how microorganisms have evolved to utilize plant sources for carbon and for energy, Prof. Master’s group uses molecular techniques to isolate those activities that would allow us to make new materials from plant fiber. This emphasis on generating new products from renewable plant-based materials should reduce our environmental footprint, and in doing so, ensure a healthier environment for generations to come.