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January 18, 2018

Free lecture on green alternatives to plastics

An acclaimed chemist, educator and proponent of natural, sustainable substitutes for synthetic plastics will discuss his commitment to renewable-resource technology Friday, Jan. 26 at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Photo of lecturer Robyn Rogers
Robyn Rogers

Dr. Robin Rogers, president and founder of 525 Solutions and the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Green Chemistry and Green Chemicals at McGill University in Montreal (2015-17), comes to FGCU thanks to a generous donation from Lee and Gene Seidler of Sanibel.  Rogers’ speech “Can Advanced Materials from Renewable Resources Replace Plastics in a Sustainable Society?” is part of FGCU’s College of Arts and Sciences Lecture Series.  The free program takes place at 6:30 p.m. in Edwards Hall 112, following a 6 p.m. reception.

Rogers’ company is based in Tuscaloosa, Ala., near the University of Alabama, where he earned undergraduate and doctoral degrees before teaching there from 1996 to 2014.  His 525 Solutions firm — which derives its name from the median point of the green-light wavelength of 500 to 550 nanometers, thus standing for “Green Solutions” — focuses on developing green technologies in the laboratory and transitioning them to commercial use.  Its current stated mission is to become the world’s leading research and development entity in technologies derived from chitin, a strong substance found in the outer covering of insects and crustaceans (such as crabs and shrimp), and also in the cell walls of certain fungi and algae.

“By 2050, there is predicted to be more plastic in the ocean than fish,” Rogers said.  “At the same time, plastics represent a $654-billion market worldwide and are ubiquitous in modern life.  Simply eliminating synthetic-plastic use with no viable alternatives would be almost impossible, and catastrophic from both a social and economic point of view.”

So Rogers’ solution — or more specifically, the 525 Solutions fix — can be found in nature.

“With a plethora of natural and renewable resources, the quality of human life can greatly benefit and improve from new, innovative technologies using building blocks obtained directly from plants and animals,” Rogers said.  “We are exploring the entire range of the ‘biorefinery concept’ — from dissolution and conversion of plant and animal resources into chemicals, and extraction of essential oils, to isolation of pure biopolymers and production of new biomaterials from them.  Because we can directly dissolve nature’s raw materials, we can shape them, functionalize them, blend them and use other non-chemistry means to produce advanced, functional materials.  These new, innovative materials represent new market opportunities, which we will develop and promote.”