Team:University College London


Welcome to the UCL entry for iGEM 2012.

UCL iGEM proposes a synthetic biology approach for the bioremediation of micro-plastic pollutants within the marine environment, with emphasis on regions of excessive debris accumulation, such as the North Pacific ‘garbage patch’.

We intend to engineer enhanced adhesive properties in Escherichia coli and marine bacteria Roseobacter denitrifican and Oceanibulbus indolifex, of the Roseobacter clade. To alter the composition and dynamics of resultant biofilms for the adhesion of micro-plastic pollutants, with an extended vision of creating mass aggregates, or ‘Plastic Islands’.

We will attempt to demonstrate micro-plastic particle aggregation and several additional genetic components, including plastic degradation, salinity/osmotic tolerance in E. coli, bacterial buoyancy and novel active biological containment strategies, for an integrative approach to marine bioremediation.

Update: Read about Plastic Republic on Wired, DVICE and Smithsonian!

Plastic Republic - Constructing 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.

Land For Sale

Take a look at our fundraising video and become a supporter of our project!

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 adsorbing 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 page for how we aim to encourage outside involvement in this project.

Maybe, we’ll see you on Plastic Republic for 2030.

With thanks to our main sponsor: