Polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) is a sustainable bioplastic produced by bacteria that is a potential replacement for conventional plastics. This study delivers an integrated experimental and computational modeling approach to decipher metabolic factors controlling PHB production and offers engineering design strategies to boost production. In the metabolically robust Rhodopseudomonas palustris CGA009, PHB production significantly increased when grown on the carbon- and electron-rich lignin breakdown product p-coumarate (C9H8O3) compared to acetate when the same amount of carbon was supplied. However, the maximum yield did not improve further when grown on coniferyl alcohol (C10H12O3). In order to obtain a systems-level understanding of factors driving PHB yield, a model-driven investigation was performed. The model yielded several engineering design strategies including utilizing reduced, high molecular weight substrates that bypass the thiolase reaction. Overall, these findings uncover key parameters controlling PHB production and design strategies that can potentially be expanded to any bacterium for optimizing PHB production.