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Sustainable breakthrough

Scientists find marine life option to petrochemicals

A Heriot-Watt team is working on the project

Scientists have developed a way to replace harmful petrochemicals used in food, medicines and beauty products with natural ingredients in marine life.

An international team led by Professor Stephen Euston at Heriot-Watt University has developed a process using microbes in response to industry calls for more sustainable materials.

The process could also be a substitute for palm oils and help prevent the loss of rain forest caused by palm oil producers.

Professor Euston said the natural ingredients break down more easily while synthetic products are not biodegradable.

“The applications for this research are widespread,” he said.

“However, ensuring this is commercially viable for the food industry will be the most challenging next step. Consumers won’t spend a high premium on everyday food items and that has to be factored into the race to address sustainability.”

Professor Stephen Euston: ‘challenging’

The 12-strong MARISURF consortium included five academic institutions: Heriot-Watt University, Ulster University, Democritus University of Thrace, University of Patras, Northumbria University.

There are four industrial companies: Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant VZW, EcTechSystens Srl, Nova-Institut fur politische und okologische innovation GmbH, Acondicionamiento Tarrasense Association.

The three end-user companies were APIVITA SA, Marlow Foods Ltd and Nanoimmunotech SL. 

The project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

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