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Issue 06/2020

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  • Renewable
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  • Bioplastics
Highlights: Films / Flexibles Bioplastics from waste-streams Basics: Eutrophication

Bioplastics from Waste

Bioplastics from Waste streams Innovation Alliance INGRAIN will use available residual waste streams from agriculture, food-processing and textile industries In the German Innovation Alliance INGRAIN, the agro-, textile- and food industry have joined together in a single consortium to create a biobased circular economy through the integration of science, business, and politics. Iingrain will use available residual waste streams from agriculture, food-processing and textile industries to ensure the sustainable and economic production of upcycled regional products. The focus area in this project is the structurally weak and highly agriculturally-driven region of Heinsberg and neighbouring regions located in the western part of North Rhein Westphalia, Germany. What the industry regards as waste - and might incinerate to produce energy or simply dump due to a lack of other options – has been recognized by other companies and initiatives as offering an enormous potential that is waiting to be exploited. Biopolymers, for example, can be produced from lignocellulose. Every plant-based biomass consists of the polymers lignin, hemicellulose, and cellulose, although the ratios differ, according to type of biomass. These materials can be broken down and refined into platform chemicals such as furfural and 5-HMF, or directly processed into products such as fibers. Based on these platform chemicals, a biorefinery can produce a diversity of bioplastics, ranging from biodegradables to high-performance materials. Developing a broad spectrum of customizable products will allow the agro-, textile-, packaging-, and food industry to be accessed. Possible sources for lignocellulose are residual waste streams from crop farming which are then thermo-chemically separated and treated with biotechnological or chemical processes. In terms of the current net value added, these residual waste streams are of interest due to the sheer volume of available material. Waste streams such as processed fruits, root crops, and greens are rich in nutrients that can offer possible routes for functional food, additives, and fertilizers before entering conventional processing cycles. Magnetic for Plastics The beauty of an alliance is that the different players, each with their unique selling points (USPs) work together, yielding possible synergies for new disruptive ideas. As the network grows, so do the possibilities for innovation. By involving all stakeholders and players across all levels in the conception of products and processes, Ingrain not only promotes flexibility, transparency, and the transfer of knowledge, it also sets the stage for a sustainable and lasting economic uptrend, enabling the creation of new businesses, jobs, expertise, and a secure base-supply chain within a biobased circular economy. The Institut für Textiltechnik (ITA), Institute of Information Management in Mechanical Engineering (IMA) at the RWTH Aachen University, the Competence Center for Microbiology and Biotechnology (CCMB) at the Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences with Wirtschaftsförderungsgesellschaft für den Kreis Heinsberg mbH, under the umbrella of the German Ministry for Education and Research’s “Wir!” programme, are now in the concept phase of Ingrain. With a positive review from the ministry, the alliance will launch in late 2021. MT Sugarbeet in the Niederrhein area • International Trade in Raw Materials, Machinery & Products Free of Charge. • Daily News from the Industrial Sector and the Plastics Markets. • Current Market Prices for Plastics. • Buyer’s Guide for Plastics & Additives, Machinery & Equipment, Subcontractors and Services. • Job Market for Specialists and Executive Staff in the Plastics Industry. Up-to-date • Fast • Professional 22 bioplastics MAGAZINE [06/20] Vol. 15

Bioplastics from Waste streams By: Uwe Bornscheuer and Ren Wei Institute of Biochemistry Greifswald University Greifswald Germany After around 100 years production of plastics, plastic particles are almost everywhere: in ground water, the oceans, the air and the food chain. Worldwide considerable efforts are undertaken to solve this plastic crisis by using biotechnological methods. However, most progress is restricted to a specific type of plastic, namely polyesters such as PET. In a comment in the journal Nature Catalysis [1] the state of the current research is critically discussed and strategies for a biobased circular economy for plastics are suggested. Sophisticated solutions are required to achieve a circular economy for plastics. Currently, only a fraction of the plastic materials are recycled using energy and costintensive processes. One possibility to degrade certain plastics into their building blocks is the use of enzymes or biotechnological processes using microorganisms (cf e.g. [2]). The thus accessible building blocks, also called monomers, can be used to make new plastics. In case the building blocks cannot be directly re-used, the plastic should at least be sufficiently degraded to relieve the environment and to access the raw materials. For both, the end-of-use recycling of plastics as well as for the aim of a carbon dioxide neutral balance, modern biotechnology can make a substantial contribution. In the publication “Possibilities and limitations of biotechnological plastic degradation and recycling“ [1] jointly written by scientists from the Universität Greifswald, the RWTH Aachen, the Fraunhofer Institut UMSICHT and the University College Dublin, the state of the current research is discussed and strategies for future developments are highlighted. The authors study within the joint project MIX-UP – funded by the European Union in the framework of Horizon 2020 – together with scientists from China the creation of value from plastic waste, originating from oceans as well as households, through biotechnology methods. In these processes, microorganisms use the degradation Circular economy for plastics Biotechnological solutions for degradation and recycling of plastics products from plastics in a so-called Up-cycling as carbon source to make value-added products. “While for the widely used plastic polyethylene terephthalate (PET) already highly efficient enzymes have been discovered and improved, which enable an economical recycling, there is no significant progress yet for most other plastics“ explains Uwe Bornscheuer from Greifswald University. Ren Wei, who leads a junior research group at the Institute of Biochemistry adds that: “Unfortunately there are several publications, which raise wrong hopes. For instance, in some reports about plastic-eating larvae of certain insects (cf. p. 13) scientifically solid proofs are missing.“ Lars Blank from the RWTH Aachen emphasises: “We need to distinguish two aspects: Plastics, which we deliberately expose to the environment such as mulching foils for agriculture need to be decomposed rapidly – within weeks or months. For durable plastics we need a mediumterm solution. A degradation should be ensured to take place within a few years – instead of so far centenaries.“ The authors suggest a scenario based on the following six principles: rethink – refuse – reduce – reuse – recycle – replace. They aim for a lively discussion how a circular economy for plastics can be achieved within the near future. Plastics in the sea © Jan_Meßerschmidt References: [1] Wei, R. et al. (2020): “Possibilities and limitations of biotechnological plastic degradation and recycling,“ in: Nature Catalysis. https://doi. org/10.1038/s41929-020-00521-w [2] Thielen, M.: Waste to plastics by enzymes and bacteria, bioplastics MAGAZINE, Vol. 15, 02/2020, p22 [3] Bornscheuer, U. et al.: Possibilities and limitations of biotechnological plastic degradation and recycling (Behind the paper), https:// bioplastics MAGAZINE [06/20] Vol. 15 23

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