Public Engagement

General Public

Science + Art + Design: Sustainable Plastics - Biopolymers

Thursday, February 27, 2020 at 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm

University Center, 618 63 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY

With 8 billion tons of plastic waste entering our oceans, a move towards recycling and reuse has been implemented. Alongside these efforts, a movement to create  bio-based and biodegradable plastics is also underway. Commercially, if a plastic contains 20% renewable material it is considered to be “bio-based.” This 20% is usually made of shrimp shells, wood, coconut, wheat, corn or other renewable materials. This also means the remaining 80% can be made from traditional fossil fuel-based plastic polymers. These fuel-based plastics leach and create a concentrated source of estrogen disruptors (Link) that negatively impact biodiversity and human health. Join us as we explore more sustainable and less toxic polymers in an effort to protect ecosystem health and reduce landfill waste.  In this lab, we use a very simple proof of concept approach to creating biopolymers from household items such as starch, milk, and sugar and examine variables such as temperature, concentration, and time in their synthesis. 

The University Science Labs host Science+Art+Design Lab Workshops use a social justice framework to empower attendees with the knowledge, values, and methods of science to address pressing planetary health challenges. All Worshops are open to faculty, students, staff, and members of the neighboring community. No prior knowledge necessary, and free. RSVP appreciated and confirmation emails are sent the week prior to the lab.


Please note: This is a two-session workshop. You must attend both dates to see results.  Please Register in the upper right-hand corner.


This workshops will be offered on the following alternative sessions. You only need to register for one set of workshop sessions:

Thursdays Feb 20 and 27th, 4-5:30pm

Fridays Feb 21 and 28th, 10-11:30am

Monday March 9th, 12:10- 2:50pm



Blog Post: Martinko, Katherine. Nov 28, 2017. “The problem with bioplastics.” TreeHugger, Treehugger. Link

Social Justice Documentary Short:  Noah Hutton. and Taylor Hess. GUTS:  Plastic Pollution Recycling is Like a Band-Aid on Gangrene.  The Atlantic/YouTube. A short film about Dr. Max Liboiron and  CLEAR, a feminist, anti-colonial marine plastics lab in Newfoundland. Link (13 min) 

Sustainability Science Review Article: Gerngross, T. and Slater, S. 2000. How Green are Green Plastics? Scientific American. 36-41. Link

Food Waste  Science Article: Drahl, C. June 22, 2019. How Seafood Shells Could Solve the Plastic Waste Problem. Science News 195 (11):18-22. Link

BioDesign Videos:  Javier Fernandez, a Close The Loop Challenge winner,  is a biophysicist using biomimicry to create bio-based plastics.

Short New Video: 2014. Foxnews Interview (Link 6min)
Longer Video:  Science for the Public. Feb 8, 2014. Replacing Plastics with Shrilk with Javier Gomez Fernandez. Science for the Public. YouTube. Link (43 minutes; with minutes 7-17 most informative) 


Sponsored by The Department of Natural Sciences & Mathematics, Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts and the Provost Office

Event Type

Workshops and Training


General Public


Environment, Sustainability and Climate Change


Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts


Environmental Studies, Natural Science




Recent Activity

Getting Here

Detailed Directions

By Train:
The 4, 5, 6, N, R, Q and L to 14th St./Union Square.
The A, C and E to 14th St. and 8th Ave.
The 1, 2 and 3 to 14th St. and 7th Ave.
The F and M to 14th St. and 6th Ave.
PATH train to 14th St. and 6th Ave.

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