Natural is the new synthetic

Plastic, glass and drugs come from microbes, not minerals

For close on a century now, we’ve been making materials out of petroleum products and minerals; things that drive the modern consumer society like plastics, fuels, and food additives. What’s more, our never-ending population boom needs larger crops every year.

It’s not like we’re running short of commodities like oil and maize, but mining and forest clearing are taking their toll on the planet. The solution is obvious: use nature to synthesize nature – it’s been going on, naturally, for billions of years.

Biosynthesis and bioengineering are making it possible to turn plants and microbes into factory workers. With a little genetic modification, bacteria can be coaxed into producing synthetic oils and fats; and herbs, yeasts, and enzymes can make almost any complex compound we require.

It started with brewing synthetic palm oil back in 2020, to save the forests from being cleared for plantations. Now we’re making ‘glass’ from transparent cellulose and organic polymers to replace plastic, without the need for expensive recycling and toxic chemical waste.

Call it synth-org or bio-facturing if you will, but making stuff these days is more like farming and brewing than chemistry and industrial processes. Consumers love it, and so does the environment.

It’s only natural.

Warning: Hazardous thinking at work

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