Accessibility statement

A disruptive alternative to plastic packaging materials

Wednesday 20 September 2023, 1.00PM

Speaker(s): Dr Sam Bryan, University of Nottingham

After the seminar, refreshments will be served in the Biology Atrium.


An estimated 8.3 billion tons of plastic waste have been generated globally since the 1950s (Science, 2017) of which approximately 80% remains in landfill or loose in the broader environment. In line with current demand, oil-based plastics are produced at a rate of ~350mtpa. While undoubtedly useful, they have been developed with a focus on function rather than end-of-life performance and their impact on our environment.

A disruptive solution to the single use plastic problem could be the design of biobased, biodegradable and high-performance polymers, which have the potential to replace oil-based packaging materials. Exopolysaccharides(EPSs) are biobased, biocompatible, non-toxic and edible. Their production is carbon negative given cyanobacteria can utilize oxygenic photosynthesis to produce complex carbohydrates. They are part of the natural survival mechanism and are produced in small quantities naturally. 

We evaluated EPS production in a number of different cyanobacterial strains, finally selecting Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 and Anabaena variabilis for further EPS testing and prototyping utilizing film casting and subsequently reviewing the material's technical/processability (mechanical/chemical testing) with Queen's University Belfast (UoB), specialized in small scale polymer testing. It is hoped that EPSs based polymers may replace existing biopolymers such as Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) which are difficult to formulate and expensive starting materials.

Learn more about Dr Sam Bryan


Location: B/K/018, Biology Building