Spring 2022 Distinguished Professor - Dr. Stephen Techtmann

|April 6, 2022|Theme: Recycling Plastic and Food|

Dr. Stephen Tectmann


Distinguished Lecturer, Dr. Stephen Techtmann


Trash to Treasure: Using microbial communities to convert plastic into food

Research Statement

Each year millions of tons of plastics are produced and over three-quarters of that plastic eventually ends up in landfills or the environment. At the same time, there is a growing need to find novel solutions to feed a growing population. These twin problems of plastic pollution and food insecurity are challenges that must be addressed through novel technological advances. Environmental microbial communities can serve as untapped reservoirs of biotechnologically relevant biological catalysts. Bacterial species capable of converting plastic into microbial biomass have been identified.  However, the rates of biological plastic conversion on its own are very slow.  Here we will discuss recent advances in coupling of chemical and biological processing of plastics to convert plastics into microbial biomass. Microbial cells are composed of over 50% protein and contain many of the required nutrients needed for nutrition. We are developing a bacterial consortium that can participate in plastic degradation and produce microbial biomass that is non-toxic and contains all the required nutrients to be used an alternative protein source. This approach of coupling of waste deconstruction with microbial build of up into biomass could provide a system for production of alternative proteins from various waste streams.

Six Questions With Steven Techtmann