Daily Archives: July 14, 2013

Natural plastic made in Uyuni Salt Plains, Potosi, Bolivia!!!

From Redorbit and El Deber: Two news about the wonders that we have in beautiful Salar de Uyuni!!

Bacteria From Salar De Uyuni In Bolivia Conceal Bioplastic

In Bolivia, in the largest continuous salt desert in the world, researchers from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia have found a bacterium that stores large amounts of PHB, a prized polymer. This biodegradable plastic is used by the food and pharmaceutical industries, for example to produce nanospheres to transport antibiotics.

In the quest for natural polymers to substitute for petroleum-based plastics, scientists have recently discovered that a microorganism in South America produces poly-beta-hydroxybutyrate (PHB), a biodegradable compound of great utility for the food, pharmaceutical, cosmetic and packaging industries.

The bacterium in question is Bacillus megaterium Uyuni S29, a strain that produces the largest amount of polymer of the genus. It has been found in the water ‘eyes’ of the famous Salar de Uyuni or Uyuni salt flat, in Bolivia.

“These are very extreme environments, which facilitate intracellular accumulation of PHB, a reserve material used by bacteria in times when nutrients are scarce,” Dr Marisol Marqués, microbiologist at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC, Spain), explains to SINC.

Scientists from the UPC and the Graz University of Technology in Austria have successfully made the bacillus produce significant quantities of the compound in the laboratory in cultivation conditions similar to those used in industry. The technique is published in the journals Food Technology & Biotechnology and Journal of Applied Microbiology.

“The resulting biopolymer has thermal properties different from conventional PHBs, which makes it easier to process, independently of its application,” Marqués goes on.

The researcher recognizes that the costs of producing biopolymers are, in general, “still high and not competitive when compared with conventional polymers, although progress is being made in this regard.”

The team has managed to reduce PHB’s high molecular weight for the first time, using lipase enzymes, which break up fats, as well as using the biopolymer to form nano- and microspheres loaded with antibiotic to control their spread throughout the organism.


A. Rodriguez Contreras reports for El Deber:

A Bacillus of the Salar de Uyuni produces a natural plastic

You can manufacture plastic nanospheres and charge them with antibiotics to control its spread in the body. They are an ‘eco-friendly’ option to the plastic from oil.

A.Rodriguez Contreras | Inf service. and scientific news

2013-07-12 09.22.30 amIn search of natural polymers that replace petroleum plastics, scientists have just discovered that a microorganism of South America produces poly-hydroxybutyrate (PHB), a biodegradable compound interest in the food industry, pharmaceutical, cosmetics and packaging.

The protagonist is the bacterium Bacillus megaterium uyuni S29, a strain that produces the greatest amount of polymer of the genre. Located in the ‘eyes’ of water from the famous Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia.

“These are very extreme environments that favor the intracellular accumulation of PHB, a material of reservation which the bacterium used in times of shortage of nutrients,” explains Dr. Marisol Marqués, microbiologist from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC).

Plastic laboratory

Scientists of the UPC and the University of Graz (Austria) have managed to produce the Bacillus in the laboratory, in significant amounts of the compound in culture conditions similar to those of the industry.

The technique is published in Journal of Applied Microbiology and Food Technology & Biotechnology journals.

“The resulting biopolymer has thermal properties different from the conventional PHB, which makes that it can process in a more easy way, regardless of its application,” said Marquis.

The researcher recognizes the costs of production of biopolymers are, in general, “still high and not competitive when compared with conventional polymers, although it is making progress in this regard”.

The team has achieved, for the first time, reduce the high molecular weight of PHB by enzymes lipases – that obscuring the fat-as well as use the biopolymer to form nano and microspheres loaded with antibiotics to control its dissemination by the body


There are several stories that are related to the eyes of the salar, sites where the cold water breaks the surface. It is said that several people that didn’t know about the “eyes” existence, came to these places and they were ‘swallowed’ by the water.

Vaguely, some stories of delegations who are cited to have disappeared when they with their vehicle fell in one of these eyes. While submerging, the pressure makes it difficult to open the doors so that the victims cannot come out. It is impossible to find the victims, since the eye of water closes again.

In addition to salt, in this white desert there is the largest reserve of lithium in the world, so a pilot plant in the town of Llipi was installed to exploit this strategic mineral. It has been financed through State resources. In 2016 is expected to be the first industrial plant of lithium.

More wealth in the Salar

Bacillus megaterium Uyuni

In its genre, this bacterium is that more bioplastic produces in industrial conditions.


A group of students from the UAGRM produced plastic bags from cassava.


They are viewed as an alternative to petroleum-based products.


Bolivia continues to miss the extraordinary opportunities to exploit sustainably all those rich resources. To stubbornly push for state-owned-enterprises and “communal” ventures… although may seem politically “interesting” in no way are able to compete with other regions and industries. Whether we like or not, there is no human, financial, technical capacity to produce in an efficient and effective manner.