Plastic pollution has become one of the most pressing environmental issues, as rapidly increasing production of disposable plastic products overwhelms the world’s ability to deal with them. Global plastic waste generation more than doubled from 2000 to 2019 to 353 million tonnes. Nearly two-thirds of plastic waste comes from plastics with lifetimes of under five years, with 40% coming from packaging, 12% from consumer goods and 11% from clothing and textiles. To repair the present, building and implementing a more circular economy is key to sustainable growth and addressing challenges like climate change, with targeted measures at all levels of the society to address the challenges posed by plastic pollution. Circular economy also needs an optimal waste management to promote plastic waste efficient recovery and recycling to avoid further plastic littering, eventually contaminating our soils and seas.
Initiating the RevoluZion
As a holistic solution to plastic pollution, the participants of the RevoluZion project are developing innovative bio-based formulations, combining advanced enzyme engineering techniques together with biodegradable plastic resins as matrix with a programmed biodegradation to conciliate on-demand biodegradation in different managed (industrial and home composting) and unmanaged environments (soil, fresh water, marine water).
The idea of the project is to reduce the typical times for composting to fasten the industrial treatment of compostable plastic articles and make it attractive and economically viable, or to allow compostability in domestic conditions and/or biodegradability in open environments (water, soil) of resins exclusively reserved for industrial composting. The formulations could serve different applications, for example, to produce coffee capsules or articles for agriculture. Therefore, the obtained blends of polyesters as matrix and enzymatic functional additives aspire to contribute as an integral solution to plastics waste management.
In order to design highly active and robust enzymes for programmed biodegradation and compostability, RevoLuzion project is bringing together cutting-edge protein engineering methods based on directed evolution strategies and ancestral resurrection.
The transformation processes of plastics through extrusion and compounding processes usually involve high temperatures and shear, which can negatively affect the activity of the enzymes developed. A delicate process of encapsulation and integration of such enzymes will be carried out to inhibit any associated degradation from the enzyme structures during its integration into the thermoplastic matrix.
The aim of the project is to develop up to three prototypes of innovative bio-based bioplastic materials using the disclosed advanced enzyme technology for different sectors of application of the plastic industry:
- Food packaging: to enable home compostability for thick articles like meat trays and other containers.
- Coffee capsules/pods: to reduce typical industrial/home composting time by up to three times without impairing shelf-life capacity.
- Agricultural films: to support excellent mechanical properties aboveground and biodegradation in soil without leaving residues.
The RevoluZion project is part of the Next Generation EU European Plan. Grant PLEC2021-008188 funded by MCIN/AEI/ 10.13039/501100011033 and by the “European Union NextGenerationEU/PRTR”. The consortium is made up of Kompuestos as the project leader, together with different top-quality research centres and universities: AITIIP, the University of Granada and 2 research groups from the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).