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Horizon Campus: Research in Plastic Biodegradation

Horizon Campus, is a Ministry of Higher Education approved Non State degree awarding institution and UGC approved Local and International degree provider. The leader in Biotechnology degrees in the Sri Lankan private higher education sector has decided to educate the public on research conducted in the fields of Biotechnology that can help and support the healthy living of the Sri Lankan public.

Biotechnology is a rapidly developing area in the modern world. With the recent advancement of research in biotechnology, public awareness of biotechnology started to expand the horizons. The biotechnology program conducted by Faculty of Science, Horizon Campus in collaboration with Nilai University, Malaysia allocates significantperiod of time for student research projects. Horizon Campus is situated in Malabe within the enchanting area surrounded by lush fields away from the hustle and bustle of the city in a clean and healthy environment.As we value the environment, the Horizon Campus gives considerable weight for student’s research on biodiversity, environment conservation and ecosystems. Many students have already contributed in conducting research projects in conservation of environment.

Currently, as a nation we are facing a persistent problem in garbage management because we do not have proper garbage disposal systems. Use of biotechnology might be a ready solution to mitigate the current garbage problem that includes plastic waste degradation. We have understood that lack of research on garbage biodegradation might further exacerbate the existing problem. We are heading to direct our research focus in seeking long lasting solutions for current waste biodegradation in the country, particularly projects on plastic biodegradation in which students find solutions to alleviate the hazardous impact created from plastic waste. Plastics are synthetic substances which have a structure built up primarily from a large number of similar units attached together. Recent biotechnology research has been demonstrated many breakthrough innovations that have a good motivation n conducting similar research among our students.
Investigation on novel methods to produce biodegradable plastics is one of the major areas in biotechnology. A large complex molecules like polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), are linear polyesters produced naturally by bacterial fermentation of sugar or lipids. These large polymer molecules help to store carbon when food is scarce. Production of PHA commercially might help to replace plastics. Bacteria use an enzyme to make PHA. This enzyme is called polyhydroxyalkanoate synthase. A group of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in USA has discovered the enzyme polyhydroxyalkanoate synthase. Biotechnology companies have already started making PHA using PHA synthase. One company is now using it to make materials for medical use.

Thailand has very successfully applied methods to replace plastics using biotechnology-based solutions, taking advantage of a thriving agriculture industry by reusing the agricultural wastecreating a green-tech sector that the other nations can follow. Their materials are called poly-lactic-acid (PLA), a bioplastic polymer made from sugar cane.

Recently, Federica Bertocchini, a research scientist at the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria, situated in Santander, on Spain’s northern coast discovered a breakthrough solution for biodegrading plastics using biotechnology research.

Wax worms (Galleria mellonella), which feed on honey and wax from the honeycombs of bees, are helpful of degrading plastics. This worm is capable of biodegrading polyethylene, Federica’s research group have carried out many experiments to test the efficacy of these worms in biodegrading polyethylene. 100 wax worms are capable of biodegrading 92 milligrams of polyethylene in 12 hours, which really is very fast”, says Bertocchini.
Accordingly, it would take these same 100 worms nearly a month to completely break down an average, 5.5 gram plastic bag. The composition of beeswax is similar to that of polyethylene. According to the researchers, this may be the reason why the worm has developed a mechanism to dispose of this type of plastic.
The researchers believes that there is a possibility that an enzyme is responsible for the biodegradation. The next step is to detect, isolate, and produce this enzyme using biotechnology on an industrial scale.
These research findings are very promising and exciting. The Horizon Campus believes establishment of strong biotechnology research projects towards waste management will leadto find a ready solution in the near future.

Interested parties in the said field can obtain further information by visiting www.horioncampus.edu.lk or by contact 0114 365 555, 0716623623, 0716 613 613, or visit Horizon Campus at Malabe.

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