Converting Petrochemical Plastic to Biodegradable Plastic

Authored by: Tanja Narancic , Nick Weirckx , Si Liu , Kevin E. O’Connor

The Handbook of Polyhydroxyalkanoates

Print publication date:  November  2020
Online publication date:  November  2020

Print ISBN: 9780367275594
eBook ISBN: 9780429296611
Adobe ISBN:


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Current plastic waste management strategies focus on the prevention and reduction of waste, followed by reuse, recycling, energy recovery, and disposal as the least preferred option. An option that should be included in these strategies is the use of biodegradable counterparts. Upcycling of plastic waste to biodegradable plastic should also be part of the new circular economy thinking. In this chapter, the potential strategies to upcycle plastic waste into biodegradable polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) using chemo-biotechnological processes, the combination of pyrolysis to break down the plastics into monomers, which are then fed to PHA accumulating bacteria, is described. We showcase the improvements made in the bioprocess part of this route for plastic waste upcycling, and we also discuss the potential to replace the pyrolysis part of this route with enzymatic hydrolysis creating a completely biotechnological process for plastic waste upcycling. Since the process’ success heavily depends on the bacterial metabolism, we also discuss the metabolic routes for the monomers’ catabolism and conversion into PHA.

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