Researchers at Beehex are developing a method to convert plastic trash into edible biomass using a lab-engineered, plastic-eating bacterium. This product was initially shown in January at the Consumer Electronics Show. (CES).
Beehex is creating deep-space food solutions by combining several 3D-printed food technologies. Anja Contractor, a NASA-affiliated entrepreneur and engineer, came up with the notion of providing astronauts with precise, individualised 3D-printed meals in microgravity. Crew time is limited here, and cooking is not an option.
“What you see over here is a shipping container…we have completely changed that,” Contractor said. “On one side, plastic waste is collected, which will be shredded. It will eventually move into the bioreactor, which contains very specific engineered bacteria. So if you want to create steak out of plastic, the entire mechanism on one side of this container will be able to produce steak out of plastic- or chicken breasts,” he explained.
The engineered bacteria eat the plastic and convert it into biomass. This biomass can then be used to produce a variety of textures and shapes.
As you can imagine, printing 3D meals could help tackle food issues right here on Earth. “The idea is to first put this type of container at food disaster relief operations such as those related to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), or locations where there are refugee camps.,” he said.
A few disclaimers 😉 – it’s unclear whether the plastic-made food will ultimately be deemed safe to eat (although the bacteria itself is unrelated to any microbe that makes humans sick.) The project is also still early in development.
Reference- Reuters, Interesting Engineering, Vox, Futurism, Food Technology