Which plastic is made from DNA and is biodegradable & recyclable? (7 reasons why DNA plastic should be preferred)

In this article, the bioplastic that is made from DNA will be discussed. Its biodegradability and recycling aspects shall also be shed light upon. Other topics covered would be: 

  • What is DNA plastic?
  • What is the effect of plastic on the environment and life?
  • Why should DNA plastic be preferred?
  • What is the biodegradability status of DNA plastic?
  • What is the recyclability status of DNA plastic?
  • FAQs

Which plastic is made from DNA and is biodegradable & recyclable?

The plastic made from DNA which is biodegradable and recyclable is termed DNA plastic. 

These bioplastics are biodegradable, and recyclable and also decrease carbon emissions by as much as 97%. 

Biodegradability is important because it leads to less waste generation and better waste management. 

Recycling is important because it leads to better waste and resource management while also ensuring that non-biodegradable waste does not cause any blunt harm to the environment. 

What is DNA plastic?

Plastics play a very important role in our everyday life because most consumer products are made from plastics. 

However, it is argued that although plastics deliver good utility, this utility comes at the cost of our environment. 

The production and use of conventional plastics are linked to environmental degradation because there is an emission of Greenhouse gases related to plastics’ production and use. 

The greenhouse gases emitted from the production and use of plastics may lead to various environmental problems such as global warming and unprecedented weather patterns. 

Another problem anchored with plastics’ production and use is the fact that plastics are not biodegradable. This means that plastics may remain in the environment for as long as a thousand years. 

This puts a lot of stress on waste management endeavours. Other than waste accumulation, plastic accumulation lead to negative environmental issues such as pollution and rising global temperatures. 

Plastics may remain in the environment in the form of microplastics. Microplastics are produced when plastics are degraded by natural agents such as water or sunlight. 

These microplastics are found in every corner of the planet and impact the environment and life in grave ways. 

Owing to these concerns related to conventional plastics, various endeavours have been done to address these issues. 

One such endeavour is the formation of bioplastics that are made from natural, plant-based sources (such as cornstarch or sugarcane) instead of products derived from fossil fuels. 

The biggest edge of these bioplastics is that they are made from natural materials and therefore, are regarded as biodegradable and non-toxic to the environment. 

Another biodegradable plastic is produced from the DNA of biomass and is termed DNA plastic. This DNA plastic is biodegradable and also recyclable. 

What is the effect of plastic on life and the environment?

The following are the impacts caused by conventional plastics on life and the environment. There are 7 categories of plastics. 6 of them are based on fossil fuels derivatives and therefore, will have a significant impact. These can be: 

  • Global warming
  • Loss of life
  • Species endangerment
  • Unprecedented weather patterns
  • Pollution
  • Disruption of ecosystems 
  • Infiltrations into the food chains 
  • Leaching
  • Eutrophication 

Among the medical complications given off by plastics there are: 

  • Necrosis 
  • Cancer 
  • Cell damage
  • Organ damage 
  • Developmental issues
  • Neuro Complications
  • Hormone disruption 

Why Should DNA Plastic Be preferred? (7 reasons) 

You may be wondering why DNA plastic should be preferred. There are a number of reasons that can justify this choice. 

First and foremost, DNA plastic is made from the DNA of biomass. A common source of plastic DNA is Salmon sperm DNA. 

Plastics made from DNA come along with a number of environmental and social benefits. These are: 

  • DNA plastic takes up very less amount of energy to make
  • DNA plastic does not depend on fossil fuel derivatives
  • DNA plastic can easily be degraded by enzymes
  • DNA plastic can also be recycled with great efficiency 
  • DNA plastic does not add to waste generation and accumulation
  • DNA plastic is made from bio-renewable resources
  • DNA plastic may lead to 97% fewer carbon emissions

These are some of the reasons why it is so important to go for biodegradable and bio-renewable resources of plastics because the current waste generation caused by plastics is already beyond 90 million tons. 

Other than the issue of waste generation, conventional plastic leads to a fervent amount of carbon emissions which can be reduced by opting for natural sources instead of depending on fossil fuel derivatives. 

These bioplastics may be used for a number of applications such as the making of plastic cups et cetera. Since there are natural and biological materials involved, there are no known side effects of bioplastics. 

Are DNA plastics biodegradable?

Yes, since DNA plastic is sourced from natural, biological sources (biorenewable sources)  the microbes can degrade DNA bioplastics. Scientists also use enzymes to degrade DNA plastics. 

Biodegradability is the breakdown of waste by the action of microbes. These microbes can be bacteria, fungi, decomposers, algae, and even protozoa. These microbes ensure that the waste generated does not accumulate and gets back to the system of life. 

If there is waste accumulation, there will be negative effects that waste accumulation which will impact all areas of our life. 

Therefore, biodegradability can also be regarded as nature’s dustbin. What is the role of a dustbin? To keep the waste segregated from the environment and make sure it does not pollute the environment. 

The role of biodegradability is very similar. Other than microbes, there are also external factors which play an important role in the biodegradation process. These may include aeration, sunlight, temperature and pressure. 

The time taken for a product or substance to biodegrade depends on the type of material and the external conditions. 

Based on biodegradability, there is a classification of waste. Waste may either be biodegradable or non-biodegradable. 

Not all waste can be degraded by the action of microbes. Most of the waste that is from synthetic materials produced at the expense of chemicals and human innovation is not biodegradable. 

It may take hundreds of years for such waste to degrade and therefore, it is termed non-biodegradable waste. Examples of non-biodegradable waste may include:

  • Resins 
  • HDPE
  • Nylon
  • Acrylonitrile 
  • Epoxies

These materials may take from a few hundred years to a thousand years to degrade. While they persist, they cause a plethora of problems to the environment and life. Examples of biodegradable waste may include plant waste, animal waste, manure et cetera. 

The impact of biodegradable waste on the environment is very less compared to non-biodegradable waste.

Are DNA plastics recyclable?

Yes, DNA plastics can also be recycled. It is claimed that recyclable and non-destructive use can be employed to achieve a prolonged life of DNA plastic. 

Recycling is a process of reusing materials and products by making certain changes to them. 

It is a great way to ensure that there is less waste generation and that the world is saved from the detrimental impacts of non-biodegradable waste. 

Recycling adheres to the 3R approach boosted by scientists and environmentalists. It also prostrates the philosophies of sustainability and SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) 

As per some definitions, recycling is the process of converting waste materials into new materials so that the impact of waste materials may be deterred and energy may be saved. 

Some of the common materials which can be recycled include:

  • Paper
  • Plastic 
  • Glass
  • Metals
  • Batteries 
  • Electronics

The most prominent use of recycling is that fewer amounts of waste are produced and sent to landfills. Therefore, if there is recycling, there will be better management of waste by the waste management authorities. 

Recycling would also mean that the negative effects of waste are avoided on the environment and life. For example, synthetic polymers like plastics may convert into microplastics when disposed of. These microplastics may cause all sorts of problems. 

These may include loss of life, toxiciation of water ecosystems, infiltrations into the food chains, medical complications, and soil pollution – to name a few. 

However, if materials like plastics are recycled then there is less chance for these negative impacts. At least, there is a way to deter and avoid these impacts as long as biodegradable and non-biodegradable materials and products are recycled. 

Another advantage of recycling is that it leads to the conservation of natural resources. To explain this, let us take an example of paper. Paper is obtained from trees and it is a biodegradable product. If the paper is not recycled and disposed of instead, then it means that to meet the need for more paper, there will be further cutting of trees. 

This will impact the world in a very negative way because natural resources like trees and water are already very limited. If there is no recycling, there will be unsustainable misuse of resources which will steer us away from the fundamentals of sustainability. 

Recycling is not just great for the environment but also for the economy. Because recycling involves reusing products, that means that half of the work is already done. 

This gives a positive jolt to the economy and the budget. There is lesser use of energy and non-renewable resources. 

This also means that recycling is a measure to make sure that there are fewer GHGs in the atmosphere so that the issue of global warming may also be tackled. 

This is important because global warming leads to countless other environmental problems as well that may include rising sea levels, insect attacks, unprecedented weather patterns, melting of glaciers et cetera. 

Another major benefit of recycling is that there is less pollution when producers and manufacturers resort to the practices of recycling. This is because there is little to no collection of raw materials and resultantly, the effects such as pollution and environmental toxicity are also avoided in this way. 

Conclusion 

It is concluded that because of the negative impacts of conventional plastics on the environment and human health, there is a shift towards bioplastics. 

Scientists recently made DNA plastic that is made from the DNA of biomass. A common source of DNA plastic is salmon sperm DNA. 

These bioplastics are biodegradable, and recyclable and also decrease carbon emissions by as much as 97%. 

Biodegradability is important because it leads to less waste generation and better waste management. 

Recycling is important because it leads to better waste and resource management while also ensuring that non-biodegradable waste does not cause any blunt harm to the environment. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Which plastic is made from DNA and is biodegradable & recyclable?

What is the most common source of DNA plastic?

Salmon sperm cells are the most common source of DNA plastic

How many types of plastics are there?

There are 7 types or categories of plastics. DNA plastic falls in the seventh category of plastics. 

References 

  • Han, J., Guo, Y., Wang, H., Zhang, K., & Yang, D. (2021). Sustainable Bioplastic Made from Biomass DNA and Ionomers. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 143(46), 19486-19497.
  • Pastore, C. (2021). DNA plastic. Nature Nanotechnology, 16(12), 1302-1302.
  • Tokiwa, Y., Calabia, B. P., Ugwu, C. U., & Aiba, S. (2009). Biodegradability of plastics. International journal of molecular sciences, 10(9), 3722-3742.
  • Hopewell, J., Dvorak, R., & Kosior, E. (2009). Plastics recycling: challenges and opportunities. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 364(1526), 2115-2126.
  • Gamillo, Elizabeth. (December 3, 2021). Scientists Made an Eco-Friendly Plastic Using DNA From Salmon Sperm. Retrieved from: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/eco-friendly-material-made-from-salmon-sperm-may-curb-plastic-waste-180979164/

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