The role of plastics is crucial throughout the agri-food value chain. According to Plastics Europe, 350Mtons of plastics are produced annually in the world.
Particularly, our targeted sectors utilize 50% for packaging and 3,5% in the agricultural sector. Furthermore, a high level of plastics use and, in particular, its end-of-life issue present themselves as a challenge for the environment due to the lack of suitable technologies for recycling them and for the presence of the leftover products.
Plastic durability is also a further challenge for agricultural films, since the affordable biodegradable plastic alternatives cannot degrade in the soil but could be sent to composting plants adding a significant economic hurdle to their greater material cost and lower performance than mostly used.
RECOVER will actively contribute to achieve the EU circular economy transition’s goal.
Particularly, the EU-funded RECOVER project aims to solve the problem of accumulation of non-recyclable agricultural and packaging plastics and micro-plastics pollution. It will apply biotech solutions, including a combination of microorganisms, novel enzymes, earthworms, and insects to work collaboratively, not only to degrade plastics but also to transform them into added-value products. Among its ambitious objectives, RECOVER will develop processes for the bioremediation of plastics pollution in soils and compost and the biotransformation of conventional plastics into bio-fertilizers and biodegradable plastics for agricultural and food packaging applications.
RECOVER aims to solve the actual needs of the contamination of agro-fields with non biodegradable agro-plastics from end users, as well as to improve municipal waste handling by decreasing drastically the packaging fraction going to unsustainable waste management routes.
This ambitious goal will be achieved by applying biotech solutions, combinating endogenous and exogenous microorganisms and their inoculation on insects.
This will allow achieving higher levels of biodegradation and direct conversion of AWP in insect by-products such as chitin-chitosan.
To achieve our goals a 48-months work plan with the following specific objectives:
Objective 1: to quantify and characterize AWP in order to select the proper ones for the project and define feasible logistic for collection, sorting and pre-treatment.
Objective 2: to select microbial communities, novel synthetic enzymes, earthworms and insects for AWP biodegradation.
Objective 3: to upscale the production of the suitable biotechnological solutions and combine them.
Objective 4: to upscale and monitor biodegradation capacities of the fortified microbial consortia (FMC).
Objective 5: to develop added value downstream products.
Objective 6: to assess risks, safety, environmental impact, costs, logistic and cascade strategy for the RECOVER process.
Objective 7: to disseminate the project results and foster their efficient exploitation.
The achievement of the RECOVER results will gradually occur through the realization of specific objectives, related to specific Work Packages (WP) and Key Performance Indicators (KPI).
WP1: Agro-plastic waste (APW) mapping, characterization, collection strategy and pre-treatment.
WP2: Selection of biotech tools for Agri-food Waste Plastics (AWP) biodegradation.
WP3: Up-scaled production of biotech tools for APW biodegradation.
WP4: Pilot scale ex and in situ degradation of municipal and rural APW.
WP5: Validation of value-added downstream products.
WP6: Safety, environmental, social and economic sustainability assessments.
WP7: Cross-cutting activities and Innovation impacts:
WP8: Project Management.
WP9: Ethics requirements.
Pilot use cases
Between months 18-36, it will be demonstrated the biodegradation capacities of the fortified microbial consortia (FMC) from previous WPs, both ex and in situ.
The leading partner of WP4 OWS, will cooperate with UAL, UNIPI, UMH, ASU, NATURPLAS, NUTRINSECT, IRIS, IDELUX, FEMTO, ENTO, SAV, for the examination at medium scale (4 liters reactors) of the effectiveness in the biodegradation capability of the selected Plastic-degrading microbial enzyme consortia for complete mineralization of the Agri-food Waste Plastic.
Tests will be run under the conditions of a limited competition and biodiversity and in the presence of a full bio-diversity and competition.
The biodegradation will be monitored on the basis of ISO 14855 (compost) and ISO 17556 (soil). The biodegradation will be determined by measuring the final conversion of the organic carbon of plastics into CO2.
RECOVER is a high impact project for the improvement of the bio economy in Europe, making the circular economy concept reality, providing new solution for End Of Life plastics.
The expected results are:
- Develop a range of biotech tools with capabilities for degrading plastics wastes from agriculture and food packaging.
- Validate the use of the resulting biotech solutions for the bioremediation of soil and organic matrices contaminated with plastic and for the biotransformation of plastics into added value products.
- Progress in the use of the by products from the process (chitin, chitosan and organic leftovers) for the production of agricultural and packaging items and bio fertilizers.
- Assess at each process step, the environmental impacts and economic feasibility in comparison with existing benchmarks.
Provide recommendations for suitable business approaches for the new process and resulting added value products from an integrated bio-based value chain perspective.