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A chink of light for the planet

A company has bioengineered an alternative to palm oil as part of a “mission to stop deforestation”. C16 Biosciences said it had raised $24m in funding to scale up production and make a commercial launch. The company uses microbes to “brew” oil, which it believes can be used by the existing palm oil supply chain in place of regular palm oil.

Palm oil is found in nearly 50% of products on supermarket shelves, including soaps, shampoos, makeup, bread, ice-cream, peanut butter and biscuits. While the global industry is worth $61bn, its production is associated with the destruction of tropical rainforests and the habitats of endangered species, including orangutans, rhinos and elephants.

C16 Biosciences’ bio-manufacturing does not rely on deforestation and results in better control of oil properties, providing a fully traceable, more efficient supply chain, according to the company. Shara Ticku, co-founder and CEO of C16 Biosciences, said: “C16 Biosciences’ mission is to stop deforestation driven by palm oil production.

“Consumers want to buy the products they love, but they don’t want to buy products that are directly responsible for climate change. Our palm oil solution will enable consumers to continue buying the products they want while also making a planet-positive impact.”

More than 250 companies and nine countries around the world have publicly pledged to stop using palm oil that has not been certified sustainable in their supply chains. Separately, a bacterium has been discovered that feeds on plastic, leading to hopes it could be used in the recycling process. Scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig, Germany, found the bacterium at a waste site feeding on polyurethane.

Researchers said work remains to be done before it can be used to treat large amounts of waste plastic and it could be 10 years before it is used on a large scale.

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