Public awareness of the mounting crisis in plastic waste, especially the plastic that ends up in the ocean, is rising. Governments are imposing bans on single-use plastics, and large consumer product companies are clamoring for solutions. A polymer that can disappear from the environment altogether might just be what the world needs.
PHAs have a lot on their curriculum vitae that suggests they’re perfect for this moment. They occur in nature. Bacteria use them to store energy when they lack enough nutrients to reproduce. Scientists have found more than 150 PHAs with different polymer structures. The kind of bacteria and what they are fed—be it sugars, starches, glycerin, triglycerides, or methane—determines the PHA produced.
An important distinction in PHAs is between short-chain and medium-chain polymers. Short-chain PHAs, such as PHB, are made of smaller monomers. Medium-chain PHAs, such as poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyhexanoate) (PHBH), are made of larger ones.
Currently, several companies deal with the production of PHA, including Nafigate Corporation.