UC Science Radio Season 2: Episode 2

Flynn Adcock: Bioplastics from bacteria

Imagine a bioreactor, fuelled by bacteria, that converts harmful methane gas into biodegradable plastic.

That’s the idea behind UC MSc student  Flynn Adcock’s research, and the win would be tremendous. Less methane gas wreaking havoc in the atmosphere, and plastic that degrades naturally in the environment. It’s not up and running yet – but it may not be as far away as you think. Hear all about it from Flynn on this episode of UC Science Radio.

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In this episode

00:49 I'm studying a particular type of interaction between two different types of bacteria— ones that degrade methane, and ones that accumulate a particular molecule that we can use to make biodegradable plastics.

02:00 What we really want to do is tackle a larger problem, being climate change from anthropogenic gases, and try and reduce that somewhat by creating a biodegradable plastic as well as degrading that gas.

04:25 We're going to be going out and bioprospecting in Rotorua, in the Rotokawa regions.

04:44 In theory, this bacteria exists, but it's never been found on the planet. So if you can find it, then that would even be quite world-changing.

05:16 The idea of finding one bacteria that eats methane and accumulates that bioplastic and can do it for a small amount of resources, of time and energy, that will change the world.

07:40 You could install these bioreactors into places that have point-source release of methane, so that could be places like in rubbish dumps.

08:00 It doesn't have to be limited to New Zealand, this bioreactor could be retrofitted anywhere in the world.

08:18 We often take for granted the vernacular associated with biology.

08:53 you have to take a step back. How can I make this information, this complex idea more accessible to a general audience or the public?

Read a transcript of the full interview.

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Meet our speakers

UC Science Radio S2E2 - Flynn Adcock - bio

Flynn Adcock

Following a four year stint in retail, Flynn Adcock enrolled at UC because he wanted a life that would continually stimulate his mind. From his initial pathway through the CUP programme, Flynn’s educational journey has unfolded apace. He has been part of the BIOSOC executive, been awarded a Master’s scholarship from Scion and completed a summer scholarship/internship with Dr Mitja Remus-Emsermann looking at the volatile organic compound profiles of wine plants. This year he was winner of Thesis in Three.

“At UC the first year is about foundational knowledge that brings everyone up to the same plateau. From there the subsequent years are about developing you as a scientist. That’s when your problem-solving skills become far more important.”

Read more: Flynn's UC journey

Molly Magid

Molly Magid

Molly Magid is an MSc student at UC. A recent graduate of Brown University, Molly is working on research in conservation genomics with Associate Professor Tammy Steeves from the School of Biological Sciences. Molly is passionate about finding ways to communicate science to the public in a clear, novel, and engaging ways. Most recently, Molly worked as the lead student producer on the podcast Possibly, which answers listener's questions about sustainability using relevant science research.