Innovative Biotic Symbiosis for Plastic Biodegradation to Solve their End-of-Life Challenges in the Agriculture and Food Industries
This link provides access to the paper published in the proceedings of the Encema conference in Marathon, Greece, 27-29 December 2022. This publication sets out the work being carried out to address the problem arising from the low recycling rate of plastic used in the agricultural and food packaging sector and how most of it ends up in landfill or is destined for thermal recovery.
The paper explains that as part of the RECOVER project, an analysis of these plastic streams has been carried out, revealing that the main polymers present were PE, PP, PET and PS. It also explains how a selection of polymers has been made in order to apply biotic approaches to enhance the biodegradation of recalcitrant plastic waste, taking into account both the presence of plastic in the waste stream and the availability of enzymes and organisms to attempt its degradation. Taking all these factors into account, the team decided to focus the research on LDPE, LLDPE, PET and PS. Representative samples of these polymers, both virgin and used (recycled stream), were acquired and investigated to observe the degradative effect due to use. The post-consumer samples showed some evidence of degradation compared to the virgin material due to the stress of the actual application, particularly evident in PET and PS. The polymers were subjected to enzyme and larval attack. Preliminary tests with Tenebrio molitor larvae showed the same evidence of assimilation of LDPE films. Based on these positive results, further degradation tests of selected plastic samples with insect and worm larvae and adults are currently underway.