The accumulation of synthetic plastic waste in the environment has become a global concern. Microbial enzymes (purified or as whole-cell biocatalysts) represent emerging biotechnological tools for waste circularity; they can depolymerize materials into reusable building blocks, but their contribution must be considered within the context of present waste management practices. This review reports on the prospective of biotechnological tools for plastic bio-recycling within the framework of plastic waste management in Europe. Available biotechnology tools can support polyethylene terephthalate (PET) recycling. However, PET represents only ≈7% of unrecycled plastic waste. Polyurethanes, the principal unrecycled waste fraction, together with other thermosets and more recalcitrant thermoplastics (e.g., polyolefins) are the next plausible target for enzyme-based depolymerization, even if this process is currently effective only on ideal polyester-based polymers. To extend the contribution of biotechnology to plastic circularity, optimization of collection and sorting systems should be considered to feed chemoenzymatic technologies for the treatment of more recalcitrant and mixed polymers. In addition, new bio-based technologies with a lower environmental impact in comparison with the present approaches should be developed to depolymerize (available or new) plastic materials, that should be designed for the required durability and for being susceptible to the action of enzymes.

Microbial Enzyme Biotechnology to Reach Plastic Waste Circularity: Current Status, Problems and Perspectives

Molla, Gianluca
;
Castellani, Pietro;Pirillo, Valentina;Torretta, Vincenzo;Ferronato, Navarro
2023-01-01

Abstract

The accumulation of synthetic plastic waste in the environment has become a global concern. Microbial enzymes (purified or as whole-cell biocatalysts) represent emerging biotechnological tools for waste circularity; they can depolymerize materials into reusable building blocks, but their contribution must be considered within the context of present waste management practices. This review reports on the prospective of biotechnological tools for plastic bio-recycling within the framework of plastic waste management in Europe. Available biotechnology tools can support polyethylene terephthalate (PET) recycling. However, PET represents only ≈7% of unrecycled plastic waste. Polyurethanes, the principal unrecycled waste fraction, together with other thermosets and more recalcitrant thermoplastics (e.g., polyolefins) are the next plausible target for enzyme-based depolymerization, even if this process is currently effective only on ideal polyester-based polymers. To extend the contribution of biotechnology to plastic circularity, optimization of collection and sorting systems should be considered to feed chemoenzymatic technologies for the treatment of more recalcitrant and mixed polymers. In addition, new bio-based technologies with a lower environmental impact in comparison with the present approaches should be developed to depolymerize (available or new) plastic materials, that should be designed for the required durability and for being susceptible to the action of enzymes.
2023
2023
circular bioeconomy; biotechnology; solid waste management; biodegradation; synthetic plastic
Orlando, Marco; Molla, Gianluca; Castellani, Pietro; Pirillo, Valentina; Torretta, Vincenzo; Ferronato, Navarro
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11383/2147892
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