Plastic recycling with bacteria
Collaboration with the Institute of Applied Microbiology, RWTH Aachen
Our recycling team is currently doing research in various directions with the aim of finally having ecological and at the same time economical recycling strategies for various kinds of plastics. This is why we have been co-operating, among others, with the Institute of Applied Microbiology at RWTH Aachen (iAMB). This cooperation has been in place since the end of last year.
At iAMB, professor Lars Blank is researching with his team to transform plastic garbage into value adding, sustainable bio materials in an environmentally friendly way, using bacteria. The scientists apply synthetic biology and by doing so they make use of the bacteria’s ability to eat the primary building blocks of the plastic garbage and to produce new, biological degradable plastics at the same time.
This observation quickly leads to the question if the problem of plastic garbage in the oceans could be solved by letting these microbs do their job. Unfortunately, it is not that easy. There are various sorts of plastic that are all built up by different building blocks and cross-linked, like chains, the so called polymer chains. Thus, the first step needed is to break down these chains into building blocks (depolymerization). This is done by using highly technical sophisticated enzyme mixes, so that the bacteria can eat the released primary plastic building blocks.
The recent EU-subsidized project “From Plastic waste to Plastic value using Pseudomonas putida Synthetic Biology” (P4SB) of the above mentioned Institute of Applied Biology at RWTH Aachen concentrated on the degradation of PET, of which the standard PET bottle is made, for example, and PU, of which foams are made, to give an example. In cooperation with PGS a master thesis was written, which deals with two aspects: on the one hand to improve the utilization of single primary plastic building blocks by the micro organisms and at the same time to allow the simultaneous degradation to the various building blocks of PET and PU.
The research is not meant to be narrowed to PET and PU, because there are so many more plastics for which recycling solutions must be found. You will soon hear more about that from us …..
We are looking forward to a successful future collaboration with this institute.