Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) have recently been the focus of attention as a biodegradable and biocompatible substitute for conventional non degradable plastics. The cost of large-scale production of these polymers has inhibited its widespread use. Thus, economical, large-scale production of PHAs is currently being studied intensively. Various bacterial strains, either wild-type or recombinant have been utilized with a wide spectrum of utilizable carbon sources. New fermentation strategies have been developed for the efficient production of PHAs at high concentration and productivity. With the current advances, PHAs can now be produced to a concentration of 80 g L−1 with productivities greater than 4 g PHA L−1 h−1. These advances will further lower the production cost of PHAs and allow this family of polymers to become a leading biodegradable polymer in the near future. This review describes the properties of PHAs, their uses, the various attempts towards the production of PHAs, focusing on the utilization of cheap substrates and the development of different fermentation strategies for the production of these polymers, an essential step forward towards their widespread use. Copyright © 2010 Society of Chemical Industry.