Team:PuiChing Macau/Human Practices

The overall timeline of our Human Practice, Education & SDG events

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[HP01] Hotel Tour and Lunch Meeting with the Wynn Managements

After announcing the results of the iGEM 2020. Our sponsor – the Wynn Hotel has organized an official lunch meeting with us to celebrate our achievement. During lunch, we discussed their sustainability work in the hotel’s future development, and then we came up with the potential of ‘Utilize food waste into usable bioplastics’ to be our iGEM project idea in the coming year. To understand their system, we requested the Wynn Management to organize a hotel tour, guiding us to have a look at their restaurant’s kitchen and how they are using the AI technology on eliminating food waste production.

Figure 1a. Having an official lunch meeting with the Wynn Management

Using the AI technology in Wynn’s kitchens by identifying the food types for a massive amount in several seconds. Then, calculate the total amount of different types of food waste they have produced each day. What they are doing now is to analyze the previous data and manage the food purchasing for the following day. The Hotel has high hopes for our project that may improve their international rankings at environment protection and sustainability because till now, the Hotel still has many limitations on handling large amounts of food waste per day. Therefore, the Hotel needs our project to facilitate them.

Figure 1b. Our students are operating Winnow Vision AI food Management Systems in the Wynn’s restaurant

[IHP01](HP02) Visit: Direcção dos Serviços de Protecção Ambiental (The Macau Environmental Protection Bureau)

Significant portion of the food waste has been sent to the incinerator bin, but in recent years, the Environmental Protection Bureau (Direcção dos Serviços de Protecção Ambiental) of Macau SAR set up a system in Macau Refuse Incineration Plant (Central de Incineração de Resíduos Sólidos de Macau) for manufacturing usable compost via food waste recycling program, and they are considering to expand this system. Under the aim that we want to transfer food waste into bioplastic and promote to the public, the food waste collection is one of the most important parts of it, so our team has visited Macau Refuse Incineration Plant to have a look at the machines that use fermentation process to transfer food waste into usable compost and how their systems work to convert a huge amount of food waste into compost every day.

Figure 2a. Visits to the Direcção dos Serviços de Protecção Ambiental

From this visit, we understand the details of several common food waste treatments around the world, and the importance of food waste classification, in real-world application and our project: No bone food waste and raw kitchen waste (unprocessed, such as fruit stand in supermarkets...) are better for the growing environment of the microorganisms, while cooked kitchen waste (after processing) the moisture and oil content increase greatly, which may inhibit the growth of the microorganisms. Also, they suggest that we should try to produce our bioplastic in different pH values and also with different kinds of food.

Figure 2b. The staff is introducing types of food waste that are able to pass through their food waste processing system

Integrated Human Practice:
This reminds us that the change of pH value of the environment may be one concern if we want to develop food waste treatment through synthetic biology. In our project, we aim to develop an engineered recombinant E.coli stain to convert food waste into biodegradable bioplastics. As we know, acidic environments may inhibit the growth of microorganisms, including E.coli. To validate our hypothesis, we design a test to see if E.coli survival is inhibited by an acidic environment. The result once again proves our concern. (you may like to check more information on our engineering success section on our wiki page)

Therefore, to tackle the problem, we would like to design the acid-tolerant system, consisting of the fabB gene, for our project. FabB genes (BBa_K3863003 fabB-his) can overcome the problem by increasing the production of unsaturated fatty acids, which should enable E.coli to survive under acidic conditions. The experiment results have shown that our acid-tolerant system is capable of overcoming problems caused by the acidic environment.

[IHP02](HP03) Initiate Further Collaboration with the Wynn Hotel Group

After confirming our project idea, we did a presentation with the Wynn Management to gain their support. In this, we introduced the idea that:

  • We are focusing on food with high content of starch, like rice, because these are the most consumed food, and we would like to break down starch into monosaccharides, hence convert them into bioplastic
  • Emphasising the potential impact of using food waste then fresh food to manufacture bioplastic.

Our project idea was appreciated by the Wynn Management and they promised that other help can be provided (information about bioplastic factories, food waste samples, financial support).

Figure 3a. Our team is having an project presentation to the Wynn Management

The Wynn Management has questioned us if our project focuses on only one type of food among all sorts of food waste. Actually, at that time, we were just focusing on food with high content of starch, like rice and we would like to break down starch into monosaccharides, hence converting them into raw materials of bioplastic through fermentation of monosaccharides like glucose.

The Wynn Management also mentioned that some bioplastics converted from food that already existed, they have reminded us to be clear about the difference between our project and others. First, our products are not much different, they are all bioplastics. Yet, instead of producing bioplastics using fresh food, we would like to use food waste which can eliminate the ethical problems. In that way, we think it is more meaningful than food waste undergoes an upcycle turning into bioplastics.

Figure 3b. Our team is having an project presentation to the Wynn Management

Integrated Human Practice:
The Wynn Management were very passionate to know more about our experiment. They questioned us if our project focuses on only one type of food among all sorts of food waste. Actually, at that time, we were just focusing on food with high content of starch, like rice and we would like to break down starch into monosaccharides, hence converting them into raw materials of bioplastic through fermentation of monosaccharides like glucose. At the same time, they were very interested in our results, and have asked us a lot about our product, the bioplastics produced. They were also concerned about the amount of food waste and the yield of the bioplastic production. We understand that our result was far from enough to reach a large-scale application with this low yield. Hence, we would like to improve on increasing the efficiency of bioplastic production.

After research, we found that phasin is one capable gene to promote the bioplastic production rate. The Yale iGEM team in 2013 has proved that phasin is able to promote the PHA production rate for about 4 times the original rate. In our project, through expressing the PhaC and PCT, we are producing PLA-PHB copolymer, which has better chemical and physical properties than PHB or PLA on their own. As phasin has been proven to be capable of increasing PHA production, and at the same time PHA and PLA share similar patterns in their chemical structures, we would like to apply phasin to our project to investigate if the coexpression of phasin with our current system would improve the production of bioplastic copolymers.

[HP04] Food Waste Collecting Programme

In order to prepare enough food waste for our future experiment and outreach program, we initiated a food waste collecting program. In this we contacted different stores and restaurants near our school, however, due to the impact of COVID19, we only received one reply from a local fruit shop, which was willing to provide us their pineapple peels for our later-on detergent workshop [ED06].

Figure 4a. Students are submitting food waste samples to us in the school

In addition to this, we also initiated a food waste collection program in our school. Our students observed that most families have meals outside and family reunions have been held during weekends which may not produce food waste at home. Also, we found out that in Macau, families seldom cook at home because adults would have to work on weekdays which don’t want to cook at night! These phenomena have partially affected our progress, so our team decided to expand the program to another three days. In the end this program allowed us to collect over 30 samples which we can have sufficient variants for the analysis of the controlled variables such as the oil contents, the contents of the fat, the pH value … However, due to the limitation of the COVID-19 regulations, we are not able to finish all the experiments, so we would be able to do the pH analysis.

[Engineering Success : Research : Food Waste Analysis Protocol]

Figure 4b. Our team members are using food waste samples for the pH analysis

During the visit to the local fruit shop, the shopkeeper is very passionate and gives us lots of pineapple peels. She has told us that each month, around 30kg of fruit peels were produced. We are shocked that the number of fruit peels wasted is so large.

Figure 4c. Our team members have visited the local fruit shop to collected pineapple peels

[HP05] Participating in the Webinar organized by the University of Saint Joseph

The Global food waste problem is affecting our world seriously and our team is going to learn and study researches made by experts all over the world, so we have participated in a Global Webinar organized by the University of Saint Joseph Macau.

Figure 5a. Our team members participated the webinar

The first presentation is done by Dr. Felicitas Schneider - the coordinator of Collaboration Initiative Food Loss and Waste launched at MACS-G20, working on the Thünen Institute in Germany. She was introducing us to Food loss and food waste among the global food supply chain. Mentioning environmental problems like GHG emission. What they have done to collaborate tackling food waste and loss problems. Their SDG goals and targets, including future development on global collaboration.

The second presentation is done by Fr. Franz Gassner - Associate professor of USJ and Mr. Warren Li - General Manager of Clean Waste Services Limited. They shared about how food waste prevention and waste management take place in affecting the circular economy (take the Greater Bay area and Hengqin in Zhuhai as an example). Compare their policy and some data with Macau. What can Macau (government) do on waste management, and reduce food waste to mitigate GHG emissions.

Figure 5b. Our team has presented our project to the participants

The third presentation is done by Ms. Ruby O - The founder of the Society of Food & Environmental Health (Macao). Her topic is ‘Food literacy: Food is more than taste. She has Discussed food literacy from her own perspective from work experience, including the importance of sustainable food system development throughout the food supply chain. The action from the government is one of the main keys, take China as an example. Food waste management is paramount for the government's action.

The fourth presentation is done by Mr. Gilberto Camacho - Founding member of NGO Macau ECOnscious. Sharing a topic of ‘A food waste reduction initiative in Macau’. Mentioning actions taking place in Macau (Not only about food waste reduction but also about other environmental problems in Macau).

Lastly, our team has presented our project in detail. The speakers agreed and appreciated our project, using an eco-friendly sustainable method on dealing with the food waste problem.

Figure 5c. The Roundtable discussion Section

Throughout the roundtable discussion, we have interacted and shared our points of view with local and international experts. Comparing Macau legislation with foreign and nearby places, for instance, Germany and Zhuhai in mainland China, we are able to find better ways of developing our project, taking cues from other places. Moreover, we have also discussed solutions that make food waste treatment in Macau more economically favorable. It is stated that financial motivation is significant, and sustainability should also be considered. Lastly, we discussed taking real action to reduce food waste generation. We all agree that it is important to begin in small ways in our daily lives and to reduce waste at source.

[HP06] MacauFWchallenge

Figure 6a. MacauFWchallenge

Nowadays, Macau citizens, especially teenagers, use social media to browse the information in their daily life.So, to take the chance of this trend, our teams have decided to make an online campaign to raise Macau citizens' awareness of cherishing our meal. We have introduced the MacauFWchallenge. MacauFWchallenge is an online challenge initiated by Team:PuiChing_Macau during 23th August to 5th September. The purpose of the challenge is to get Macau citizens' attention to food waste problems, promote the idea of not having food waste left after enjoying a meal and let people realize the value of food.

Figure 6b. MacauFWchallenge poster

Figure 6c. Participants posts

In order to enhance our participation, we have contacted some online foodies in Macau to cooperate with us to advertise our online challenge. We are surprised that not only people in Macau joined the food waste challenge but also some students studying in other countries helped us promote our events. We have experienced the power of the internet. The Internet links us together!

We have got 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prizes and there are 25 prizes in total. For the prizes, we had a meeting with our sponsors - the Wynn Hotel. They promised to sponsor us with 5 restaurant vouchers in their restaurant. We have also contacted the Society of Food & Environmental Health (Macao) and they have sponsored us by giving numerous restaurant vouchers and supermarket coupons which are operated by social enterprises. At the same time, we want to let our citizens recognize our social enterprises in the community which are providing great services and we hope to benefit the community companies and advocate for them.

Here is our entire proposal of the MacauFWchallenge, including promotion and education materials.

Here is our entire proposal of the MacauFWchallenge, including promotion and education materials.

Figure 6d. Post introducing our prizes

[HP07] Zoom Meeting with the Bluepha lab

To know more about biomanufactuation, we contacted the Bluepha lab, a synthetic biology company from China. The Bluepha lab was a previous iGEM team and successfully become a business startup in China. As one of their previous iGEM projects is related to manufacturing bioplastics. We are eager to know about their project, especially for commercializing and applying their project in the industrial area, the bioplastic industry circumstances in China, and discussing our project’s application in an industrial aspect.

Figure 7a. Zoom sharing with the Bluepha staff

The Bluepha lab is very glad to listen to our idea of the project, they think it is very creative for linking food waste and bioplastics together. They believe that our project can apply widely to around the world, especially in China because the demand for food waste treatment is really high these days. But they still have concerns about our project such as Chinese cuisine always contains high oil contents, it is hard for us to control the oil contents of food waste collected.

Figure 7b. Zoom sharing with the Bluepha staff

The Bluepha lab shares some statistics related to bioplastics in China with us. In 2019, the total output of bioplastics in China is 81.84 million tons, accounting for 25% of the global demand but the consumption of bioplastics in our country is very small. China’s bioplastics industry is facing oversupply these days. However, people are now starting to realize the benefits of bioplastics, sustainability, and eco-friendly. Therefore, they believe that the local demand will increase these years.

In fact, their products are meeting the needs of a certain mass and an application. Only in this way can we have a clearer judgment on the prospect of the market. For example, the PHA products are now targeting the market of disposable tableware. In 2021, the Chinese Government implemented the plastic ban order. Among them, plastic bags, agricultural films, and packaging bags are the most strictly controlled by the order but their annual consumption exceeds 9 million tons. Therefore, their next target is focussing on these products.

Hence, they shared statistics related to bioplastics in China with us, and they were about product performance, requirements, costs.