Israel’s BGN Technologies, the technology transfer company of Ben Gurion University, has announced a research collaboration with ECOIBÉRIA, a Portuguese plastic waste recycling company. The research will focus on bacterial biodegradation of Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) for the purpose of plastic recycling.
The research team will consist of Professors Ariel Kushmaro and Alex Sivan, both from the Laboratory of Environmental Biotechnology, and Avram and Stella Goldstein-Goren from the Department of Biotechnology Engineering at BGU.
PET is the most used polymer in the world and used in a variety of ways in the textile industry, as well as general food and drink packaging. Approximately 56 million tons of PET are produced each year, much of which is restricted to single-use items.
“Professors Kushmaro and Sivan are world experts in the field of plastic biodegradation,” said Shirley Sheffer, VP Business Development at BGN Technologies. “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.”
Kushmaro and Sivan, as well as their team, have been studying plastic biodegradation and have discovered several bacteria species that can biodegrade polyethylene. In the past, it was considered non-biodegradable due to its stable carbon-carbon (C-C) bonds of the polymer backbone.
"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 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."
Based on the findings of the research, the project aims to assess the biodegradation of PET by previously identified bacteria to develop an efficient biodegradation process. It is hoped that these products will be used as raw material for recycled PET in the future.
BGN Technologies is part of Ben-Gurion University, Israel’s third-largest university. It brings technology innovations, ‘from lab to market,’ and helps foster collaboration among researchers and students. To date, it has established over 100 startup companies in the fields of biotech, hi-tech, and cleantech.
Founded in 2005, ECOIBÉRIA is based in northern Portugal and dedicated to PET plastic waste recycling. It is a producer of secondary raw materials of high quality and consistency, such as PET Flakes.