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Bio Innovation of a Circular Economy for Plastics

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BioICEP (Bio Innovation of a Circular Economy for Plastics)

Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2020-12-31

BioICEP is designed to pave a route to a circular economy for plastics. The challenge being addressed is to provide a seamless route to resolving pervasive plastic pollution and climate impact.
BioICEP operates in tandem with nature using novel combinations of mechano-green chemistry and microbial and enzymatic technologies to depolymerize and revalorization plastic waste. In essence, BioICEP will take in plastic waste at one end, then using BioICEP technologies, will treat it, mechanically, green chemically and enzymatically to recover the molecules and building blocks, and use this as the starting point for new fully sustainable bioplastics and bioproducts.
BioICEP embodies the convergence of mechanisms spanning the disciplines of mechanical engineering, green chemical science, biocatalysis and bioprocessing to complete the life-cycle for plastics.
Why BioICEP is important to Society:
The scale of the problem is immense. Plastic, which is primarily processed from fossil fuel resources, is a ubiquitous and indispensable material in the world economy and in our daily lives, providing both high performance energy saving benefits along with alarming pollution and waste stockpiles.
Delivering ‘plastic circularity’ is essential for the future prosperity of society and the planet. By the end of the BioICEP project, in four years, researchers envisage that the outputs of the project will herald in a new generation of green technologies transforming how we live with plastics. The project focuses on a specific aspect of the plastics life cycle that when combined will close the loop from our linear processes into one of circularity. BioICEP proposes to turn petroleum derived plastic waste into individual building blocks for new replacement eco-plastics that are not harmful to the environment. BioICEP technology provides a route to upcycling multi-layered plastics and using their constituent molecules to create products that are perpetually regeneratable delivering full plastics circularity.
The BioICEP project is a compelling ecological-based proposition to address the global environmental plastics challenge, simultaneously creating new opportunities for industry to transition from a linear model of petroleum-based plastics production to a production model based on circularity. BioICEP researchers are committed that the outputs from this project could open up potential new markets for eco-based technologies and product development as a cornerstone of a circular economy that works for business, society and the environment.
The BioICEP overall objectives:
The project’s overall objective is to demonstrate a seamless sustainable route to a circular economy for plastics by developing an advanced energy, carbon, and cost-efficient waste plastic biotransformation into high market demand bioproducts and bioplastics. The consortium brings together leading experts from industry and academia contributing a set of purpose-designed and ground-breaking technologies in order to achieve the following specific objectives:
STRATEGIC GOAL 1: Development of accelerated high-efficiency biodegradation incorporating microorganism communities expressing at least three novel and improved enzymatic activities enabling the degradation of mixtures of plastics.
STRATEGIC GOAL 2: Sustainable degradation of at least 20% of mixed plastics.
STRATEGIC GOAL 3: Bioprocessed high value bioproducts including equivalent bioplastics valorising mixed plastic waste.
STRATEGIC GOAL 4: Sustainable prototype system plan, paving the way to bring the developed solution to the market, fulfilling current needs, future expectations, and delivering a seamless bio-innovative route for a circular economy for plastics.
BioICEP endeavors to produce plastic products that are perpetually regeneratable has the potential to deliver full plastics circularity and transform how we live with plastics. The BioICEP ethos embodies a circular economy which is sustainable, regenerative and fruitful for all of the planet and its inhabitants.
A combination of partner pretreatment technologies show strong progress in rendering waste plastics amenable to biodegradation. AIM have demonstrated novel REX and microwave pretreatments with promising degradation indications for LDPE and PP. Two different pretreatment technology inventions by AIT (DePET) and TCD (hydrolysis), for high yield PET depolymerisation. Synergistically acting with positive depolymerisation activities have been demonstrated at NTUA and IMGGE. A newly discovered MM41 strain is highly promising for PET multimer substrates. Two promising isolates from BIT show promise for PU and PCL.
A number of approaches have been progressed involving the preparation of fermentable feedstocks and the adaptation of biopolymer producing strains to utilise plastic monomers as feedstocks. iBET have demonstrated important novel PHA/B production using PET and PU monomers as feedstocks
The pilot operation is planned to be deployed for mechanically treated heterogenous plastics, such as polymeric residues from DePET processed PET and polyesters. Selected efficient defined enzymatic cocktail/microbial will be used to convert the mechano-green chemical treated plastics to monomer/oligomer feedstocks suitable for fermentation using identified PHB production strain consortia.
Pretreatment technologies are proving instrumental in work towards the directed improvement of microbial and enzymatic activities for the achievement of the most efficient depolymerisations for each plastic. A combination of further new enzymes, enzymatic concentration and identified microbial strain activities on pretreated plastics is expected to provide steps towards the effective accelerated high efficiency biodegradation of waste plastics.
The DePET technology has already been demonstrated for high thoughput depolymerization of PET in the presence of other polymers such as PE and PLA. The AIT and TCD technologies have the capacity to depolymerise over 95% of pure PET feedstocks such as uncapped bottles, and are also applicable to the depolymeristion of heterogenous PET recyclate. Effective enzymatic cocktails and strain consortia are being developed for simultaneous depolymerization of different polymers to form fermentable feedstocks. These results indicate that the project is well on target to achieving sustainable degradation of at least 20% of mixed waste plastics.
The achievement of PHA/B accumulation using different plastic monomers establishes the potential to develop consortia of PHA/B producing strains which can utilise a range of plastic monomers as carbon sources. These exciting results validate the BioICEP principle of syphoning recalcitrant petroleum plastics for ecologically harmless bioplastics product.
New PHB, PLA and nanocellulose blends have been prepared for food packaging applications. Yellow eco-straws for beverages are being developed using curcumin dyed PHB based biopolymer blends. These results confirm that after 12 months the project is on schedule to deliver high value bioproducts from bioprocessed depolymerised waste plastics.
The culmination of selected results such as our preliminary demonstrations for PET, point to the feasibility of deploying a pilot plant to demonstrate plastics circularity wherein, synergistically operating enzymes act on REX or Microwave treated polymers, outputting requisite monomers which can be subsequently directed for PHB fermentation.
BiOICEP logo
BiOICEP schematic