Nature’s Principles: disrupting the plastics industry with sugar beets

News - 20 April 2021

To make plastic from petroleum, a lot of energy and petroleum are needed, which leads to a significant contribution to CO2 emissions. Jules Rombouts and Harman Korte felt it could (and should) be done different. With Nature’s Principles, they are working on a new technique to make up to 30% cheaper, recyclable polylactic acid (PLA) plastic. Not with petroleum, but with sugar beets. What is their secret, and how do they plan to beat plastic?

In 2017, Harman and Jules discovered something interesting. In traditional microbiological fermentations you ferment with one specific pre-selected micro-organism – a pure culture. Consider, for example, making yogurt, where you add lactic acid bacteria to milk after pasteurization. On the other hand, there are “undefined mixed cultures” – open systems in which all kinds of different micro-organisms work against each other and together. Jules: “Think of how we are making biogas. You dump organic waste in a reactor, and biogas comes out. So we thought: could you not also make a specific lactic acid for plastic in this way? And can we possibly compete price-wise with other PLA, or even plastic made from petroleum? ”

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