The Sustainable Development Goals are a call to action to integrally address global environmental, social, and economic challenges. As iGEMers, it’s our responsibility to participate in the global conversations to help develop solutions towards meeting the SDGs.
Poverty alleviation education, let knowledge eliminate poverty
2020 will be the year when China achieves its goal of completing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects and the year when the battle against poverty will win in all respects. To actively respond to the iGEM competition's requirements for Sustainable Development Goalsand to help China overall fight against poverty. With the support of The College of Life Sciences, Tianjin University, TJUSLS_China team will carry out live online courses centered on popular science education. The main content of the online course is science education, supplemented by research and other necessary projects, to do some practical things for the local people and solve some practical difficulties of the local people.
Tanchang in Gansu Province is the target of our school for poverty alleviation, where educational condition is limited.
To fundamentally solve the poverty problem in Tanchang County, the education problem must be solved. How to solve the problem of low education quality? How to connect with external high-quality resources? How can we let the children who drop out and return to school at the same time keep their hearts in school? This is the problem we should solve first. Local children are generally eager to learn about the outside world. They just don't know what the current learning has to do with the outside world.
Knowledge can change lives greatly. This is a lesson we have learned after more than 20 years of education. We hope that through online live courses, children in these poor areas can arouse their curiosity about life, nature and the world, so as to arouse their interest in studying biology or other disciplines, as well as their passion to build and give back to their hometown. Through popular science activities and later publicity reports，we focus social attention on students in poor areas，which mobilize the attention of all sectors of society to the poor areas, and make contribution to the early realization of poverty alleviation and overall well-off life.
We got in touch with our school's practice team and held an online biology science course.
“What is Biology?”
“There are proteins in life such as…”
“What are bacteria？”
We were surprised by their answer and questions. We hope that the small seed we sow will flourish in some spring.
Use the power of knowledge to solve poverty. That's what we've been doing, and that's what we'll continue to do.
On the road of poverty alleviation through education, we have been persistent. In 2019, the TJUSLS_China team of Tianjin University followed the students of the school practice team to Tanchang for poverty alleviation education.
Facing the landslide section, a student of the practice team who had once retreated said, Yes, it is not easy for us. We change trains to cars and cars to walk. But in this place where we complain, they walk every day. Can't we walk for them once?
Regrettably, due to the epidemic this year, we can only teach the children online. However, we will continue the poverty alleviation education until the poverty problem is solved with the power of knowledge. We will persist in poverty alleviation education until the whole of China and the whole world have solved the problem of poverty. Until we end poverty in all its forms everywhere.
Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Poly (ethylene terephthalate), commonly abbreviated PET, is produced by the chain polymerization of ethylene glycol and terephthalate. Due to its durability, low price, and convenient processability, PET is one of the most widely used synthetic plastics worldwide, with an annual manufacturing capacity of over 30 million tons [1,2]. PET has various applications in our daily life and industries, such as in manufacturing bottles, fibers, films, containers and so on . According to its applications, PET has different crystallinities. For example, PET used for packaging has less crystallinity, e.g., approximately 8%. PET used for manufacturing bottles and textiles has high crystallinity of 30–40% , which our team wants to degrade.
The strong demand and widely applications of PET have brought a global problem that is accumulation of the discarded PET in the environment, also accompanied by severe ecologically damaging. Even after physically broken, discarded PET wastes never truly leave in the environment but are present as micro- and nano-plastics that are ingested by marine organisms and continue to accumulate in their bodies [5,6]. According to multiple studies, more than 690 species of marine organisms have been found to accumulate the PET debris and microplastics in their bodies, which means that PET are choking marine life and spreading in the food chain [7,8,9]. Therefore, PET especially highly crystallized PET harms soil, mariene and human due to its durability.
Previous studies have shown that a number of PET-degrading enzymes including esterases, lipases and cutinases can depolymerize the amorphous or low-crystallinity PET to a certain degree, but they lack the ability to degrade the high crystallinity PET . Surprisingly, Yoshida et al.  isolated a novel bacterium, Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6, which is able to use PET as its major energy and carbon source. The key to its PET-biodegrading ability is secreted PETase (PET-hydrolyzing enzyme).
Significantly, PETase prefers PET to aliphatic esters, compared with other enzymes. The most valuable character of PETase is that it shows enzymatic activity towards PET with high crystallinity, which makes the degradation of highly crystallized PET possible.
We want to address the problem that there is currently no applicable high-efficiency method to degrade high-crystallinity PET. We hope we can contribute to solving this problem, especially the practical application of PETase in environmental governance. For this, we screened PETase mutants that are expected to be practically used to degrade high-crystallinity PET, which have the chance to solve the current PET pollution around the world. Besides, we evaluated and verified the activity of the mutants by combining structural screening and molecular simulation technology, and proved the rationality of our whole project and contributions to synthetic biology. We have successfully found our PET-CRUSHER!
For the further research, we will continue to carry out experiments to test and ensure the validity of our results.
With the mature results, the improved PETase can establish a new cycle chain and save the entire ecosystem. This will be a major progress in global environmental governance.
If our PET-CRUSHER can be used in industry in the future, we can realize the closed-loop processing of PET. Our PET-CRUSHER can realize PET recycling without consuming PET. In other words, our PET-CRUSHER can ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
When consulting relevant organizations majoring in the environmental protection, we study that the pollution of microplastic in the marine has developed into a desperate and urgent problem. Through the communication, we came up with a new idea that we can use the PETase we modified in the degradation facilities. They agreed with our idea and thought it of huge market application value, and they are also willing to cooperate closely with us in our subsequent experiments.
They believe that if our enzymes can degrade the microplastics in the ocean, then we can turn waste into treasure and turn marine garbage into usable PET products. Our enzymes can conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems
When communicated with students from the practice team of Northeast Forestry University, they said during their investigation, they found that the public generally did not understand microplastics, and they suggested that we could carry out related popular science activities. And they believe that both marine microplastics and terrestrial microplastics are problems that need to be solved urgently. They suggest that we can use our PETase to degrade marine and terrestrial microplastics. After careful consideration, we think this is a very good idea.
They think that if our enzymes can degrade the terrestrial microplastics, then we can turn waste into treasure and turn terrestrial garbage into usable PET products. Our enzymes can protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems.
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 Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET): Production, Price, Market and its Properties. A vailable at https://www.plasticsinsight.com/resin-intelligence/resin-prices/polyethylene-terephthalate/
 Kawai Fusako, Kawabata Takeshi and Oda Masayuki. Current knowledge on enzymatic PET degradation and its possible application to waste stream management and other fields. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 103, 4253–4268 (2019).
 Kawai F, Oda M, Tamashiro T, et al. A novel Ca2+-activated, thermostabilized polyesterase capable of hydrolyzing polyethylene terephthalate from Saccharomonospora viridis AHK190. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, 2014, 98(24):10053-10064.
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 Cressey D. Bottles, bags, ropes and toothbrushes: the struggle to track ocean plastics. Nature. 2016, 536(7616):263.
 Zhang X, Fevre M, Jones Gavin O, et al. Catalysis as an enabling science for sustainable polymers. Chemical Reviews. 2017, 118(2).
 Hahladakis J N, Velis C A, Weber R, et al. An overview of chemical additives present in plastics: Migration, release, fate and environmental impact during their use, disposal and recycling. Journal of Hazardous Materials. 2018, 344:179-199.
 Yoshida Shosuke, Hiraga Kazumi, Takehana Toshihiko, et al. A bacterium that degrades and assimilates poly(ethylene terephthalate).Science. 2016,351(Mar.11 TN.6278):1196-1199.