Team:University College London


Revision as of 11:44, 26 June 2012 by PhilippBoeing (Talk | contribs)


UCL iGEM 2012

Welcome to the UCL 2012 iGEM project.

This is a wiki-in-progress, keep checking back for updated content and project news.

Plastic Republic - Construction An Island From Microplastic Waste

Turning a Global Problem into a Valuable Resource: We Aim to Engineer Bacteria to Aggregate Tonnes of Microplastic Pollution into ‘Plastic Islands’, in order to Reclaim Plastic for Re-Use.

After months of planning, we are now rallying to construct a ‘plastic island’ using the principles of synthetic biology. In so doing we hope to provide a solution to one of the world’s major environmental problems – the North Pacific Garbage Patch.

The North Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest of many garbage patches identified around the world. The waste from these patches enters the digestive systems of resident organisms, which are affected either by the physical size of the plastic, or its toxicity from absorbing organic pollutants.

We saw the merits of using synthetic biology to overcome this problem, especially as conventional methods cannot target the majority of the waste - microplastics. By ‘synthesising’ a new strain of bacteria, capable of detecting, aggregating, and buoying these elusive microplastics, we aim to construct ‘Plastic Islands’ for

  1. Removal and Re-use
  2. Construction of a ‘Plastic Republic’

Please visit our Research page for more background and details on the above, and our Human Practice page for how we aim to encourage outside involvement in this project.

So what system are you building?

The short answer: we are building a Plastic Republic.

The long answer: You may have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a giant vortex of plastic waste and sludge trapped in the North Pacific ocean. We plan to engineer bacteria to clean up the microplastics which constitute a large proportion of the Garbage Patch. We aim to do this in one of two ways:

- Breaking down pieces of plastic until they are no longer toxic to marine organisms

- Clumping together microplastics to form ‘plastic islands’

Our little islands will be left to grow as they accumulate more debris, creating a new marine ecosystem out of our plastic pollution. Eventually our plastic wasteland will be transformed into a synthetic utopia – a new Plastic Republic.

We’ll see you there for iGEM 2030.