Critical Review on the Progress of Plastic Bioupcycling Technology as a Potential Solution for Sustainable Plastic Waste Management

Passanun Lomwongsopon, Cristiano Varrone*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
81 Downloads (Pure)


Plastic production worldwide has doubled in the last two decades and is expected to reach a four-fold increase by 2050. The durability of plastic makes them a perfect material for many applications, but it is also a key limitation to their end-of-life management. The current plastic lifecycle is far from circular, with only 13% being collected for recycling and 9% being successfully recycled, indicating the failure of current recycling technology. The remaining plastic waste streams are thus incinerated, landfilled, or worse, mismanaged, leading to them leaking into the environment. To promote plastic circularity, keeping material in the loop is a priority and represents a more sustainable solution. This can be achieved through the reuse of plastic items, or by using plastic waste as a resource for new materials, instead of discarding them as waste. As the discovery of plastic-degrading/utilizing microorganisms and enzymes has been extensively reported recently, the possibility of developing biological plastic upcycling processes is opening up. An increasing amount of studies have investigated the use of plastic as a carbon source for biotechnological processes to produce high-value compounds such as bioplastics, biochemicals, and biosurfactants. In the current review, the advancements in fossil-based plastic bio- and thermochemical upcycling technologies are presented and critically discussed. In particular, we highlight the developed (bio)depolymerization coupled with bioconversion/fermentation processes to obtain industrially valuable products. This review is expected to contribute to the future development and scale-up of effective plastic bioupcycling processes that can act as a drive to increase waste removal from the environment and valorize post-consumer plastic streams, thus accelerating the implementation of a circular (plastic) economy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4996
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2022


  • bioconversion
  • bioupcycling
  • fermentation
  • plastic upcycling
  • recycling
  • valorization


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