Bioweg, Ginkgo Bioworks join hands to combat microplastic pollution

Bio-based alternatives to synthetic polymers are being developed

Bioweg CEO Prateek Mahalwar and COO Srinivas Karuturi.

Bioweg, an innovative ‘Bio-innovation to Business’ German producer of highly functional and customizable bio-based materials, has partnered with Ginkgo Bioworks, global leaders in building platforms for cell programming and biosecurity, to announce a collaboration to optimize the production of bacterial cellulose and produce novel variants with improved performance to serve a variety of end markets. 

Biomaterials could prove to be the most biodegradable, carbon-negative plastic alternative that could put the world on a more sustainable track. Bioweg was founded in Germany in 2019 by Prateek Mahalwar and Srinivas Karuturi, two Indian-origin founders from Delhi and Bengaluru. 

The problem of microplastics is prevalent all over the world and also India is not unaffected. A recent study by the National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR) has found that microplastic pollution is very high on the east coast about 10 km into the open sea, with up to 308 particles per kg of sediment. It is therefore not surprising that an average person could be ingesting about 5 grams of plastic each week through the consumption of common foods and beverages, according to a study by the University of Newcastle. 

These microplastics are non-biodegradable and sometimes carry toxic chemicals on top of them. Regulatory agencies and communities around the world have addressed microplastics contamination through significant regulations. Bioweg’s current products based on biodegradable bacterial cellulose have already been tested and implemented by companies as an effective substitute for widely used synthetic polymers such as acrylates, polyethylene, and polystyrene. Synthetic polymers often appear as microbeads (micropowders) and texturants (rheology modifiers) in products throughout the cosmetics, homecare, personal care, agricultural coatings, and other industries, which contribute to microplastic pollution in surface waters worldwide.  

“Consumers and companies are united in their commitment to finding better performing and more sustainable alternatives for everyday products to break the chain of microplastic pollution. Our solutions are not just tackling a major environmental, sustainability, and health problem, but also present a robust market opportunity to replace plastic polymers in care, coatings, chemicals, and other industries,” said Prateek Mahalwar, CEO at Bioweg. “We believe that this partnership will be a win-win situation for us and will give us access to strain engineering and screening capabilities that can enable us to deliver our biobased solutions at scale and competitive pricing.”

“Bioweg is addressing a significant need in the marketplace to develop and produce a new generation of clean alternatives to synthetic polymers,” said Ena Cratsenburg, chief business officer at Ginkgo Bioworks. “We are committed to supporting the shift to sustainable and bio-based high-performance alternatives and are happy to partner with Bioweg to address the pressing issues of microplastic contamination and promote responsible consumption.” 

The Indian government has recognized the issue of microplastic pollution and is launching programs such as the Green Credit Program under the Environment (Protection) Act to incentivize sustainable measures in the industry. The Union Budget 2023-24 also focuses heavily on green growth to accelerate the transition to sustainable growth. Bioweg aims to provide significant support in this regard and possibly establish a production facility for biologic microplastic alternatives in India in the near future, which could serve as a base for supplying the Southeast Asian market.

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