Fermentation: a process that has been used by humans for thousands of years to produce everything from beer to surströmming, a herring dish that has the dubious reputation as the world's most pungent food.
But now, one French company is hoping to use fermentation to transform renewable sources such as biomass into plastic.
"We've worked on a bacteria, Escherichia coli, and this bacteria allows us to create enzymes that normally don't exist," Frédéric Pâques, CTO of Global Bioenergies, told CNBC's Sustainable Energy. "These enzymes allow the transformation of a sugar, glucose for example, into isobutene," he added.
Isobutene is part of the gaseous olefins family, described by Global Bioenergies as being, "key molecules at the heart of the petrochemical industry." Other gaseous olefins include propylene, butadiene and ethylene. A range of materials – from plastics to rubber – can be derived from these olefins.
Global Bioenergies say that the gaseous olefins produced from their process are identical to ones produced from fossil oil.