S. Korea reveals strategy to accelerate growth of white biotechnology industry

Park Sae-jin Reporter() | Posted : December 3, 2020, 14:45 | Updated : December 3, 2020, 14:45

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SEOUL -- In a bid to develop eco-friendly replacements for plastics and other non-degradable materials, South Korea will strategically nurture the white biotechnology industry that focuses on the creation and distribution of biodegradable bioplastics.

White Biotechnology is an area of science that is devoted to using living cells collected from yeast, molds, microorganisms and plants, and enzymes to create products that can be easily degraded. White biotechnology production processes also consume less energy and create less waste. It has been researched worldwide to reduce plastic pollution.

Plastic products are broken down to microscopic-sizes but they still remain in the environment. The accumulation of plastic wastes has become a serious global problem. The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy revealed a blueprint to accelerate the growth of South Korea's white biotechnology industry, saying it would launch a project to invigorate the development of degradable bioplastics in the first half of next year. Financial and regulatory support will be offered to companies and research organizations.

"The white biotechnology industry can be the key that can help reduce the emission of greenhouse gas and solve plastic waste problems," trade minister Sung Yun-mo said in a statement on December 3. He said the government is ready to provide full multi-angle support so that white biotechnology can become South Korea's future growth engine by creating early-stage markets, easing regulations and establishing foundations for the use of new environmentally friendly materials.

To minimize costs, time and unnecessary obstacles before the commercialization of eco-friendly plastics, the ministry will establish a dedicated testing agency to verify efficacy and diversify test methods so that companies can reduce time and cost required for development, demonstration and mass production.

South Korea has stepped up research into bioplastics. Disposable plastic cups can be replaced with bioplastic ones made of starch. Enzymes extracted from insect larvae can be used to break down polystyrene foam blocks that normally take hundreds of years to decompose.

Industry experts suggest the market's demand and distribution networks for biodegradable bioplastics must be established before commercialization kicks into full gear in order to popularize degradable bioplastics. Regulations on bioengineered organisms will be eased for simple verification and biotechnology development to help companies and research organizations use the latest biotechnologies such as gene scissors, a tool for rewriting DNA codes.
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