Beyond Plastic: Can bioplastics help us deal with the challenge caused by plastic pollution?

April 22, 2024


It’s tiny, orange, and on first look, with a strange shape and texture.

This small object is the first piece of bioplastic made at the Biohacking laboratory, established by UNDP North Macedonia in partnership with the city of Skopje and UNICEF to  push the design durable solutions for complex environmental challenges, through fostering innovation, education, and engagement of communities. 

Scientists at the  biohacking laboratory, led by Professor Jana Klopcevska, used biowaste from potato peel to create bioplastic that can serve as an entry point in creating entrepreneurial opportunities for a greener future that can be across the country and region.

On World Earth Day 2024, we take a deeper look at bioplastics, asking the question - is it a viable alternative to the excessive use of plastic, which continues to pollute our planet to an extreme amount? 

The theme for this year’s observance is „World against plastics “. This rallying cry is directed towards everyone, from activists, youth and educators to governments, innovators, and scientists – and the dire situation on the planet faced with plastic pollution sets an ambitious goal – 60% reduction in the production of all plastics by 2040.


The plastic bottles we use daily are made from polyethylene terephthalate, often referred to as „PET“and if not recycled, it would take approximately 450 years for these bottles to decompose in the environment, creating huge plastic waste and polluting the environment. 

In addition to being thrown away, these bottles can be burned or managed through waste disposal.

If thrown away, plastic can pollute landscapes, waterways, and ecosystems. If its incinerated, it releases harmful pollutants, including methane, which can have a more significant impact on climate change than CO₂ over shorter periods. 

And even when handled in the most sustainable way possible, only about 9 percent of all plastic waste is estimated to be recycled.

As science has proven beyond any doubt – plastic pollution poses a threat to the environment, ecosystems, wildlife, and human health. 


So, what is bioplastic and why is it a better alternative to the plastic we use abundantly?

Bioplastics are a type of plastic derived from renewable biomass sources, such as plants, agricultural byproducts, or microorganisms. Unlike traditional plastics, which are typically made from fossil fuels like petroleum or natural gas, bioplastics offer a more sustainable alternative.

The key ingredient for the bioplastics made in the biohacking Skopje laboratory - potato, can be found in every kitchen, restaurant, and fresh produce shop. 


The production of bioplastics also results in lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to the production of regular plastics. 

As a result, using bioplastics can help mitigate climate change by reducing CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases.

Many bioplastics are also biodegradable or compostable, meaning they can break down naturally in the environment through microbial action, composting, or other biological processes. This can help reduce plastic pollution and environmental impact, especially in marine and terrestrial ecosystems where plastic waste accumulates. 

So even though, continued research and innovation are needed to optimize its sustainability and scalability, bioplastics offer a promising alternative to regular plastics, as an environmentally friendly option for various applications, including packaging, consumer products, textiles, and automotive components.