The BioICEP Project turns non-biodegradable plastics into new biobased materials for the packaging and pharmaceutical industries

The BioICEP project (Bio Innovation of a Circular Economy for Plastics), which started in February 2020 and is funded by the Horizon 2020 programme, aims to develop sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional petroleum-based plastics. With this in mind, the project has been made up of a consortium of partners from different countries and areas of knowledge who were able to address the challenge of developing alternative processes to improve recycling based on a multidisciplinary approach.

The project has used an innovative cascade process by applying and combining chemical and biological methods to turn fossil-based plastic waste into natural, biodegradable substitutes to be used in the packaging and pharma industries.

The solution proposed by BioICEP has focused on the use of three technologies that enhance, accelerate and increase the degradation of plastics to levels far beyond what is currently possible. A triple-action depolymerization system has broken down plastic waste through three consecutive processes:

  1. chemical disintegration processes, including a new microwave-based technology that reduces the molecular weight of base polymers to improve biodegradation;
  2. biocatalytic digestion with improved enzymes using different innovative techniques, including screening with fluorescent sensors and directed evolution;
  3. microbial consortia developed from best-in-class single microbial strains used in combination to produce the highly efficient degradation of mixed plastic waste streams.

The products of this degradation process will be used for the synthesis of new polymers and bioproducts to enable a new plastic waste-based circular economy.