More than 32 Million tons of plastic waste end up in our environment per year. Most of it is non-degradable polyethylene, produced from about 8% of the global mineral oil resources. Researchers of the Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology develop new biotechnological solutions to substitute critical processes. In the EU-funded project ROBOX, acib’s partners Uni Maastricht and Chemstream from Belgium have developed an approach to produce polyethylene biologically and sustainably from plant extracts. Enzyme-engineering can help to produce plastic without the use of harmful solvents.
Complex, recalcitrant polymers represent a barrier in the biodegradation process during anaerobic digestion (AD) towards biogas production. This concerns both, biopolymers from plant waste as well as synthetic polymeric plastics entering biogas plants as packaging material with food waste. Therefore, microbial populations and their enzymes involved in the hydrolysis of lignocellulose-rich plant material and modified polyesters are investigated to develop a strategy to biologically boost the conversion of waste to bioenergy by tailor-made microbial communities and bioaugmentation.