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How can microscopic factories make plastic greener?

Fluorine is responsible for many ‘forever chemicals’ that are hard to dispose of or recycle. Recruiting bacteria to make plastics could help.

Climate Change and Environment icon Climate Change and Environment

Fluorinated compounds are found in a wide variety of everyday products, from shoes to medicines. Fluorine bonds are strong and highly stable, but it’s this durability that makes fluorinated compounds difficult to deal with at the end of a product’s lifespan. The EU-funded SinFonia offers a novel solution. The project has now been featured in the CORDIS series of explanatory videos titled Make the Connection with EU Science. The SinFonia project asked whether fluorinated compounds could be manufactured in a more sustainable way, producing equally strong compounds that were also biodegradable. The project team landed on the idea of bioengineering bacterial cell ‘factories’ to produce plastic polymers. “We were able to show that while our sustainably produced polymers contain a little fluorine, they were able to retain many of the benefits of heavily fluorinated materials,” says project coordinator Pablo Iván Nikel. With the project now completed, a spin-off company has been launched to commercialise this innovation. ‘Make the connection with EU-science’ is a series of explanatory videos focusing on the scientific content and exploitation aspects of EU research projects.


SinFonia, polymers, bacterial, petrochemicals, fluorine, carbon, plastic