Polymers (Journal)

Activity: Editorial work and peer reviewSeries editorCommunication


According to the Ellen McArthur Report 2020, up to 9 million tons of plastic waste leak into the oceans each year, feeding the big garbage patches. Sadly, by 2050, there might be as much (micro)plastics as fish biomass in the sea. How did we get to this?

With a global production of 350 million tons in 2018 and a 4-fold increase foreseen in the next 30 years, plastic is becoming one of the most abundant anthropogenic materials, with multiple implications on economy and environment. Moreover, due to inefficient waste management, recycling rates of post-consumer plastics only reach a disappointing 14% worldwide. Most plastic waste ends up incinerated and landfilled, while only a minor fraction is collected for recycling.

The low rates of recycling have made plastic pollution one of the biggest waste problems faced by today’s society. In fact, relevant fractions of plastic cannot be (economically) recycled with conventional technologies, and new solutions are urgently needed. In addition to mechanical and chemical recycling, new studies are now investigating biochemical recycling routes, mainly through enzyme technology and protein engineering. These technologies might represent a much-needed cornerstone for a more circular use of plastic and have the potential to complement the already existing technologies, by targeting the currently non-recycled fractions. However, the hydrophobicity and high crystallinity of plastics are still of major concern, often leading to slow kinetics and incomplete degradation, thus requiring further research and process optimization. For this reason, biotechnological plastic degradation and recycling are often overlooked on an industrial level, even though a new biotechnology by Carbios and Toulouse White Biotechnology allows obtaining efficient depolymerization of poly(ethylene terephthalate) on an industry-relevant scale and processing time. Considering that biotechnological degradation of plastics is still at a very early stage, these results are very promising and stimulate further research and development.
PeriodMar 2021Oct 2021
Type of journalJournal
Degree of RecognitionInternational