Category Archives: Research

Economy and law, key points for a sustainable production of plastics

Economy and law, key points for a sustainable production of plastics

Experts gathered today at the workshop Sustainable plastics & EU-policies. Challenges & opportunities for industry and academia, organised by the EFB’s Biobased Materials Division with the collaboration of SEBiot, have stressed that in order to make progress in the sustainable production of plastics it is essential, on the one hand, to make the entire production process economically viable and, on the other hand, to have an appropriate legislative framework that favours and prioritises the production of circular plastics.

Of the 400.3 million tonnes of plastic produced in 2022, only 38 Mt were circular plastics, i.e. plastics recycled mechanically after use (8.9% of the total), chemically recycled (0.1%), bioplastics (2.3%) or plastics produced from CO2 capture (less than 0.1%). These figures, set out in the speech by Irene Mora, representative of the Plastics Europe association, highlight the long road that remains to be travelled to achieve sustainable plastics production, which drastically reduces their environmental impact.

Europe has been losing weight in global plastics production (from 28% in 2002 to 14% in 2022) to China (which today produces 32% of all plastics worldwide) and other Asian countries, but has been gaining weight in the production of recycled plastics (21% worldwide) and bioplastics (27%), although circular plastics still only account for 19.7% of all European production.

According to John McGeehan, a consultant and expert in plastics recycling and residue, much more collaboration is needed between teams working in basic research, environmental research, business and non-governmental organisations. “Much more research is needed to simplify processes and solve the challenges of industrial scale-up, as well as economic and environmental analysis, because these factors are key to industry transforming and changing its current methods,” he said. However, other experts believe that even if the technological challenges are solved, change will not happen without the right legislative framework.

The first session of the workshop, moderated by María Auxiliadora Prieto (CIB-CSIC), vice-president of SEBiot, was also attended by Mikael Muegge, from the company Susfert, who presented the problem of the presence of microplastics in most fertilisers currently in use – added by the industry to slow down nutrient dispensation – which is a major problem of contamination of agricultural soils.

The second session of the workshop, moderated by Lucia Gardossi from the University of Trieste (Italy), discussed the European legislative framework on sustainable plastics and, in particular, the provisions of the EU Green Deal and the PPWR (Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation), with the participation of Chloe Johnson (Circular Bio-based Europe, Belgium), Lara Dammer (Nova Institut, Germany), Hasso von Pogrell (European Bioplastics, Germany) and J. Erica Nuñez (The Ocean Foundation, USA).

The event, which was held online, was attended by more than 90 participants.

Information on world plastics production



Carotenoids that capture light and transform it into energy in the oceans

Carotenoids that capture light and transform it into energy in the oceans

Three researchers from the University of Huelva (Rosa León, Patricia Gómez-Villegas and Ana Molina-Márquez) are part of the international team that unveils the role of carotenoids as antennae in the capture of light and its transformation into energy in the oceans and continental waters.

The study, published in the prestigious journal Nature, confirms that retinal proteins, type I rhodopsins (related to type II rhodopsins, responsible for vision in animals) are present in more than half of the non-photosynthetic bacteria and archaea in aquatic environments and that almost half of them may have a second chromophore group, which captures light and transmits it to the retinal. These rhodopsins act as proton or ion pumps, converting the sun’s energy into chemical energy and contributing to the bacteria’s metabolism. Researchers estimate that, in aquatic environments, this energy uptake by rhodopsin pumps may exceed that carried out in photosynthesis. The participation of hydroxylated carotenoids, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, which are very abundant in nature, increases the range of radiation that rhodopsin pumps can capture and provides evidence of the importance that these pigment-antennas may play in rhodopsin-based phototropy and energy fluxes in oceanic and inland waters.

Until recently, the main pigments involved in the uptake and transformation of solar energy were considered to be chlorophylls, through photosynthesis, but the contribution of retinal, assisted in many cases by carotenoids, in aquatic heterotrophic organisms may be even greater than that of photosynthesis, revealing the importance of photoheterotrophy (metabolism based on the uptake of light and assimilation of organic carbon) and the need to further study this type of metabolism, as yet little explored, which may change the paradigms of matter and energy flow in nature and be of great importance in marine ecology.

The essential chromophore group of rhodopsins is retinal. To date, only two or three cases have been found of bacteria in which a second chromophore of an isoprenoid nature contributes to the uptake of light and its transfer to the retinal. Specifically, the ketocaroteoids salinixanthin and echinenone in Salinibacter and the cyanobacterium Gloeobacter violaceus, respectively. Salinixanthin, which acts as an antenna or secondary chromophore in xanthorhodopsin, is the most studied; it was discovered in the Marismas de Santa Pola, thanks to researchers from the University of Alicante (Josefa Antón, Science 2005). It is now revealed that the presence of this second chromophore group is not something exceptional or exclusive to extreme environments, but could be a very generalised fact, involving very abundant hydroxylated carotenoids.

You can read the full article here.

SEBiot joins the Agreement on Transparency in Animal Experimentation

SEBiot  joins the Agreement on Transparency in Animal Experimentation

The Spanish Society of Biotechnology (SEBiot) has joined the Agreement on Transparency in Animal Experimentation, promoted by the Confederation of Scientific Societies of Spain (COSCE), with the collaboration of the European Association for Animal Research (EARA), and launched on September 20, 2016.

From SEBiot, we are aware that animal research plays a fundamental role in the knowledge of the biological mechanisms involved in diseases and in the development of medical treatments. Without the use of animals in biomedical research, we would not have most of the medicines, antibiotics, vaccines and surgical techniques that are used in human and veterinary medicine today.

Part of the scientific work carried out by SEBiot members, which contributes to the improvement of people’s lives, requires the use of experimental animals. The welfare of experimental animals is a fundamental issue for SEBiot, as it is the strict respect and compliance with current legislation on the protection of animals used in experimentation and other scientific purposes, including teaching (RD 53/103). SEBiot promotes that the research carried out by its members is carried out under the highest standards of animal welfare, not only from the point of moral responsibility towards them, but also because quality science could not be achieved without animal welfare.

SEBiot defends that animal experimentation must comply with legal standards and be reviewed by an ethical animal experimentation committee, which will have to promote the use of alternative methods, the reduction of the number of animals used, and the refinement of experimental procedures. No research project that requires the use of animals must begin without the mandatory ethical evaluation and final authorization by the respective competent authority.

SEBiot is willing to collaborate in any action that can contribute to improving the knowledge of its partners about the use of experimental animals, which help to ensure that both the staff caring for the animals and the researchers involved in experimentation have the necessary training.

On the other hand, SEBiot fully supports transparency initiatives in animal experimentation aimed at fostering a greater understanding of these issues on the part of society.