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.
Plastic – the material of our time – is omnipresent. As the production is steadily increasing, its recycling lags behind. What if enzymes like esterases could make a change? While bringing about a sustainable life style will not get around reducing plastic usage, responsible resource management also necessitates the implementation of circular economy. As for that, the European Union established the Circular Economy Package. It made plastic one of the five priorities to be targeted and calls for novel and improved recycling processes. And, (bio)-chemical recycling using esterases might just be the method to boost our resource efficiency.