New BIOtechnologiCaL approaches for biodegrading and promoting the environmEntal biotrAnsformation of syNthetic polymeric materials
The worldwide and EU production of plastics obtained from fossil resources is about 230 and 70 mil ton/y, respectively. About 45% of plastic waste is currently disposed of in landfills, where it undergoes (photo)degradation with the production of small fragments which enter the marine environment, where they can exert adverse effects. Innovative eco-efficient solutions to degrade/detoxify plastics accumulated in landfills, persisting in composting facilities and in aquatic environments are sought.
BIOCLEAN aims at developing innovative, ecoefficient pilot-scale and/or field validated biotechnological solutions for degrading (and valorising) plastic wastes in terrestrial and aquatic environments. Waste plastics from landfills, composting facilities, anaerobic digesters and marine environments have been collected and characterized, and are being used as source for the isolation of novel, robust naturally-occurring plastic-degrading mixed and pure cultures. The obtained cultures, together with strains from public culture collections and enzymes, are being tested for their ability to degrade virgin and/or physical/chemical-treated polyethylene
(PE), polypropylene (PP), polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polystyrene (PS) plastics. The cultures that will show biodegradation activity will be characterized and then exploited in bio-augmentation/ biostimulation strategies for enhancing biodegradation of plastic wastes. The processes and strategies developed at the pilot scale will be assessed for their effectiveness and economical sustainability, validated via field trials and preliminary exploited in the formulation of measures for mitigating plastic pollution in the Aegean Sea as a case study. These new processes and solutions would remarkably contribute to a) the eco-efficient safe disposal of
plastic waste currently accumulating in landfills, b) intensify the mineralization of those entering terrestrial waste treating facilities and aquatic environments and c) support the EU Member States to take the necessary measures to achieve or maintain Good Environmental Status in the marine environment by the year 2020, according to the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). The novel pilot and field-scale validated treatments and strategies as well as the microbes/enzymes obtained and characterized in the project can deserve patenting and dedicated market opportunities.
BIOCLEAN includes 18 partners from 9 different EU Countries and 1 from China. The Consortium includes Universities (6), Research Institutes (4), SMEs (7), a multimunicipality and the Association of European plastic producers (PlasticsEurope). Such a membership was formulated to encompass the broad range of complementary RTD expertise and facilities required (that no single Member State could have provided) and to promote the establishment of a common scientific background, methods and measures in the sector of save plastic disposal and marine litter.