Song Jing, a reporter of China Development and reform newspaper, reported comprehensively that what is inseparable from us in modern life? mobile phone? WIFI？ There is another product you may not think of immediately, but it is also inseparable from us - plastic. Common ones include shopping bags in shopping malls, plastic food bags, beverage bottles, disposable tableware, sockets, etc. easily overlooked ones include: man-made fibers in clothes, insulating layer wrapped in the outer layer of wires, vacuum cleaners, air conditioners, microwave ovens, car interiors, films on mobile phones, electronic components in mobile phones, etc In fact, it can be said that most people on earth are surrounded by plastic!
The field of degradable plastics industry is still in the introduction period
In the human world, plastic is everywhere. The word "plastic" is associated with white pollution. However, in the view of experts, plastic itself is not a pollutant, and its harm lies in its continuous existence in the environment in a non degradable way. According to a report of the United Nations Environment Programme in 2018, of the 9 billion tons of plastic products produced in the world, only 9% are recycled, another 12% are burned, and the remaining 79% are finally deposited in landfills or into the natural environment. Zhang Deyuan, associate researcher and deputy director of the Institute of economic reform of the Macroeconomic Research Institute of the national development and Reform Commission, pointed out that the essence of plastic pollution is that non degradable plastic waste leaks into the soil, water and other natural environment, resulting in visual pollution, soil damage, micro plastics and other environmental hazards. He pointed out that the core of plastic pollution control is to build a solid "dam" for plastic leakage to the environment.
In January 2020, the national development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of ecological environment issued the opinions on Further Strengthening the control of plastic pollution, and the "plastic restriction order" was further upgraded to the "plastic prohibition order", which means that the state pays more attention to the degradability of plastic pollution.
According to the report released by the National Bureau of statistics and the prospective industry research institute, in 2019, the production of plastic products in our country reached about 81.84 million tons, accounting for about 1 / 4 of the world's demand for plastic products. Meanwhile, in 2019, China's consumption of biodegradable plastics was only 520000 tons. Referring to the data information of the European bioplastics Industry Association, China's consumption of biodegradable plastics accounted for only 4.6% in the world, which was significantly lower than the world average. It can be seen that China's degradable plastics industry is still in the introduction period.
From the development of degradable plastics industry in China, it has experienced many technological innovations for many years. Nowadays, China's degradable plastics industry has developed from photodegradable plastics and starch additive degradable plastics to fully degradable biodegradable plastics.
Ye Qing, a professor at Zhongnan University of economics and law, said: "degradable plastics industry is an emerging industry, which can greatly reduce environmental protection costs and improve people's living standards. Listed companies should seize the opportunity to layout the market as soon as possible, form alternative industries as soon as possible and increase the company's profitability."
PHA or the most potential biodegradable material
August 2021, Blue Crystal microorganism, the leader of domestic synthetic biology track (bluepha) announced that it had completed a series B2 financing of 430 million yuan led by a number of well-known investment institutions, and the total amount of Series B financing had exceeded 600 million yuan. Its co founders, Dr. Zhang haoqian and Dr. Li Teng, graduated from Peking University and Tsinghua University respectively, have a multidisciplinary cross research background. In addition, bluecrystal microorganism won the new energy award of hicool 2021 global entrepreneurship competition in September this year/ First prize of new materials / energy saving and environmental protection track. Hicool global entrepreneurship competition is a comprehensive international talent activity dominated by talent entrepreneurship competitions at home and abroad. In the past two years, it has attracted 6044 innovation projects from 84 countries and regions around the world.
Li Teng said that they have completed the industrialized production technology of biodegradable material PHA (polyhydroxyfatty acid ester), which systematically reduces the production cost of PHA. "The cost of PHA is expected to be further reduced, approaching the commonly used plastics such as polyethylene. At present, the main customers are the world's top 500 enterprises in the food and consumer goods industry."
Biodegradable plastics are one of the new degradable plastics, which can be degraded into harmless substances in the natural environment. Bio based plastics can reduce people's dependence on oil and will not cause a net increase in CO2 in the atmosphere. According to Li Teng, PHA is a natural polymer based material synthesized by microorganisms. It is completely synthesized by microorganisms. It is an environment-friendly material. PHA has the characteristics of material variability, nonlinear optical properties, piezoelectric properties, gas barrier properties, thermoplasticity, biodegradability, good biocompatibility and so on. Many microorganisms in nature contain PHA hydrolases, which can hydrolyze PHA into water-soluble oligomers and monomers, and then use these products as intracellular nutrients, which is very environmentally friendly and efficient. Therefore, PHA can be said to be one of the most potential biodegradable plastics.
Li Teng said, "sustainable development is a global unified demand. China has gradually increased from the initial 'ban on foreign garbage' to the 'ban on plastic'. Last year, the Chinese government proposed to strive to achieve the goal of carbon peak by 2030 and carbon neutralization by 2060. We can see that the field of environmentally friendly plastics is very valuable."
Synthetic Biology covers a very large field. As for why PHA is chosen instead of other directions, Zhang haoqian frankly said that selection is a very important content for synthetic biology entrepreneurship. How to determine the quality of a selection? First of all, its market demand must be stable. There is an invariant to drive its market demand on a scale of at least 10 years. Otherwise, after the product is developed, its life cycle has passed. Secondly, its market demand should be large enough, otherwise it is not worth doing at a high price. Third, it's better to have continuous increment in the future.
Based on this, the selection should have a certain stock market, with large market increment and stable growth on a 10-year scale. PHA obviously meets these conditions. In terms of the general environment, China, the United States and Europe have reached a consensus on "carbon neutrality" or environmental protection. This allows PHA to have a large enough market on a long time scale. We calculated that the market scale of PHA is almost 1.5 trillion. In such a large market, even if only 1% of the demand is met, it will be 15 billion.
Degradable plastics industry has a long way to go and the bottleneck needs to be gradually broken through
With the increasing attention of the government to plastic pollution, China's degradable plastic industry has ushered in rapid development, and all kinds of products are relatively complete. Sun Nan, senior consultant of China Chemical Information Center, said that in 2020, biodegradable plastics were mainly used in packaging materials, agricultural film and textile fields. Packaging fields (including flexible packaging and hard packaging) were the most important application areas. Besides, 3D printing, agricultural film, automobile industry, durable plastic tableware, foam products, electronic and electrical appliances were also known.
However, at present, the distribution of China's degradable plastics industry is relatively scattered, which is difficult to form a scale effect. At the same time, the implementation of early-stage policies is less than expected, resulting in low capacity utilization and low willingness of enterprises to invest in R & D. This leads to the high production cost of degradable plastics in China, which hinders the market-oriented replacement of traditional plastics.
Fu Xiangsheng, vice president of China Petroleum and Chemical Industry Federation, proposed at the 2021 degradable materials production and financing summit held this year that bio based and degradable materials, as an important part of new materials, are the focus of global attention and research and development in recent years. However, we should pay attention to four aspects: first, the industrialization of bio based and degradable materials is restricted by technology and innovation; Second, there are few economically competitive products of bio based chemicals and degradable materials; Third, the bottleneck of bio based chemicals and degradable materials is obvious; Fourth, degradable materials can only partially replace synthetic materials of fossil raw materials, and it is impossible to completely rely on degradable materials to solve plastic pollution.
"To boost the high-quality development of degradable materials, the key to solving all problems is innovation. Through innovation, we can solve the problems of immature technology, engineering industrialization, economy and competitiveness." Fu Xiang said.
"Degradable plastic products, literally, one is fully degradable, that is, fully biodegradable plastic products, which can be fully biodegradable within 180 days. The other is only partially degradable, which will still pollute the environment after being abandoned." Yu Houyong, a distinguished professor at Zhejiang University of technology, said that the standard is not clear, which makes many businesses play a "marginal ball".
Zhang haoqian said that the biggest problem in synthetic biology in China is the shortage of talents. One reason is that the first choice of excellent returned talents is often scientific research institutes, which has both historical inertia and practical factors. At present, the whole domestic biotechnology industry has no conditions to offer an offer with higher short-term comprehensive income than that of academia.
"In my opinion, if Chinese enterprises can pass the innovation, they can give full play to their great advantages in the industry. 70% of the world's fermentation capacity is in China, which means that we have a very complete talent and industrial infrastructure. This is an advantage of Chinese enterprises and should be used." Zhang haoqian said.
Yu Houyong also said that taking polylactic acid (PLA), a highly recognized raw material in the degradable plastics industry, as an example, the core technology in its process still needs to be broken through, and the production capacity is mainly concentrated overseas. He suggested that enterprises should actively cooperate with scientific research institutions, universities and provincial key enterprise research institutes to meet consumers' expectations for the quality of alternative products from a technical point of view.
"Under the national policy, non degradable and green environmental protection have become an important direction for the development of the plastic industry." Liu Hanlong, Secretary General of Chongqing Plastics Industry Association, believes that. "Circular economy is the future development direction of our plastic industry. Not only the plastic industry itself, but also the legal standards and operation mechanism related to plastic production, the government's measures related to plastic recycling, the innovation ability of enterprises and the social acceptance of degradable plastics will become new challenges for the plastic industry."