Viennese researchers from the Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (acib) and BOKU Vienna are developing a sterile 3D printing process that can be used to produce laboratory equipment from environmentally friendly and biodegradable plastic. This could eliminate several million tons of single-use plastic waste and reduce the use of resources, energy and water by up to 90 percent. The technology will soon be made publicly available as open source and free of charge to enable laboratories worldwide to make a further contribution to environmental protection.
Material streams from biotechnology are often sterilized by temperature or chemicals, before and/or after use, which relies on vast amounts of energy, water and is straining waste-water treatment. Additionally, single-use plastics used in life science are non-bio-sourced and end up being incinerated because they are not biodegradable. These waste-streams can be substantially reduced by a simple, easy-to-implement, and low-energy green solution: Composting.
The concept includes composting the biomass used for biotechnological production (CHO, HEK, Vero, Yeast, etc.) after any secondary products, e.g. proteins, have been extracted, ensuring degradation of residual DNA as demonstrated for transgenic plants. Poly-lactic-acid can be used as a biodegradable building material for bioreactors and other equipment as acib has previously shown. The added benefit is: 3D-printing can be developed to sterilize the material during the printing process avoiding sterilization in an R&D context. Accordingly, energy consumption can be reduced by >90% and the entire single-use bioprocesses can be set up in a bio-sourced and biodegradable manner, complying with the requirements of a circular economy.
acib is now searching for partners from biopharma, biotechnology and composting facilities. Be the first one to demonstrate a compostable bioprocess and the first one to show a real circular bioprocess meeting the national and international sustainability goals of 2040 and beyond.