ASU professor aims to solve coffee cup dilemma with algae-based plastic


In Arizona, an Arizona State University assistant professor is making biodegradable plastic out of algae.

Taylor Weiss is using cyanobacteria found in algae together with bacteria Halomonas boliviensis  to form the bioplastic at ASU’s Polytechnic campus—home to the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation, the world’s largest algae test-bed facility

“It’s a simple core metabolism,” Weiss tells State Press. “You can make any cell make bioplastics, even humans cells.”

Weiss’s bioplastic is particularly suited for plastic linings in hot beverage cups. “Starbucks has had a recycling problem for a long time,” Weiss adds. “Any paper cup you’ve ever seen that’s coated in wax can hold cold liquid. You heat it up and it separates the wax from the paper. With coffee cups you can’t do that, so they use synthetic plastics.”