The research will focus on bacterial biodegradation of Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) for the purpose of plastic recycling. BGN Technologies, the technology transfer company of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), announced today that it had signed a research collaboration agreement with ECOIBÉRIA in the field of plastic recycling by bacteria, based on research from the team of Prof. Ariel Kushmaro and Prof. Alex Sivan, both from the Laboratory of Environmental Biotechnology and Avram and Stella Goldstein-Goren Department of Biotechnology Engineering at BGU.
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is the most abundantly used polymer in the world, with multiple applications in the textile industry as well as in food and beverage packaging. It is estimated that about 56 million tons of PET are produced yearly worldwide, mostly as single use packaging material. Therefore, intense efforts are directed towards recycling and reuse of the PET plastic materials.
Prof.’s Kushmaro and Sivan and their team have been studying plastic biodegradation and have discovered several bacteria species that are able to biodegrade polyethylene, which was previously considered a non-biodegradable plastic mainly because of the highly stable carbon−carbon (C−C) bonds of the polymer backbone.
Based on these findings, the research collaboration project will assess the biodegradation of PET by previously identified bacteria as well as novel ones, with the aim of developing an efficient biodegradation process of PET whose products will be used as raw materials for recycled PET in the future.
“Plastic-containing products is one of the biggest environmental challenges facing modern society, and degradation and recycling of plastic are one crucial strategy for dealing with the environmental impact of PET,” said Prof. Kushmaro. “Existing technologies, such as thermo-mechanical recycling impair the mechanical properties of the polymer and suffer from other disadvantages such as the need for organic solvents, high reaction temperatures and intensive waste sorting. Bacterial degradation of PET into recyclable materials that can be then reused to manufacture new PET products, is therefore a promising strategy that can have a global environmental and economic impact.”
“ECOIBÉRIA’s mission is to guarantee the sustainability of the production and consumption models and assist in the transition from the linear economy to the circular economy, through the transformation of PET plastic waste into valuable secondary raw materials,” said Mr. Jorge Lemos, CEO at ECOIBÉRIA. “We believe that BGU’s innovations in the field of bacterial biodegradation of PET complements our technologies and has the potential to become an important contribution to our plastic recycling efforts.”
Shirley Sheffer, VP Business Development at BGN Technologies, added, “Prof.s Kushmaro and Sivan are world experts in the field of plastic biodegradation. We are very pleased to partner with ECOIBÉRIA, a leading European company in the field of plastic waste recycling, for further researching this important field. This research collaboration holds the potential of implementing future findings into ECOIBÉRIA environmentally-friendly materials and products.”
Based in the north of Portugal, ECOIBÉRIA, founded in 2005 and today with a cover area with 17.000 m2, is dedicated to PET plastic waste recycling, being a leading European producer of secondary raw materials of high quality and consistency, such as, PET Flakes, and in April 2021, of PET Pellets. Every year an estimated quantity of 50.000 tons of PET plastic waste is processed by ECOIBÉRIA, using the most advanced technology and according to the highest quality standards.
BGN Technologies is the technology transfer company of Ben-Gurion University, the third largest university in Israel. BGN Technologies brings technological innovations from the lab to the market and fosters research collaborations and entrepreneurship among researchers and students. To date, BGN Technologies has established over 100 startup companies in the fields of biotech, hi-tech, and cleantech, and has initiated leading technology hubs, incubators, and accelerators. Over the past decade, BGN Technologies has focused on creating long-term partnerships with multinational corporations such as Deutsche Telekom, Dell-EMC, PayPal, and Lockheed Martin, securing value and growth for Ben-Gurion University as well as the Negev region. For more information, visit the BGN Technologies website.