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Portsmouth becomes first non-US partner in new US plastic pollution control project

Posted: Jul 14, 2021 4:42 PM
The University of Portsmouth is now a key member of a collaborative effort funded by the US Department of Energy (DOE) and industry to address the growing global plastic waste crisis.

Bio-optimized technologies to keep thermoplastics out of landfills and the environment (BOTTLEMT) The consortium is focused on solving two critical issues: how to effectively recycle and recycle the plastics of today and how to redesign the plastics of tomorrow.

The first element of BOTTLE’s mission is to develop new processes and technologies to break down our current plastics into their chemical building blocks for reuse (recycling) and to make new products from these waste streams ( upcycling). For example, this would allow single-use polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles to be broken down and transformed back into PET bottles endlessly without reducing clarity or performance, while upcycling could produce high performance composite materials. for applications such as wind turbine blades or automotive and aerospace components.

The second element of BOTTLE’s mission is to redesign the plastics of tomorrow so that they are recyclable by design. It is an innovative chemistry where the materials retain the same properties and the same function while being compatible with recycling processes which allow efficient recovery and reuse at the end of their life.

Portsmouth researchers at the University Center for Enzyme Innovationn, led by the teacher John McGeehan, have already worked extensively with the BOTTLE team led by Dr Gregg Beckham at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Colorado to take the first steps. they have enzymes designed to accelerate the degradation of PET and are working on new versions of these enzymes that can operate under industrial conditions and be produced cheaply on a large scale.

 Professor McGeehan said: “Plastic pollution is a global problem that requires a global solution. Our research has accelerated considerably over the past few years due to bringing together experts from broad disciplines, and I believe that working collaboratively, rather than competing, provides us with our involvement in BOTTLE is an important aspect of our initiative. Revolution Plastics, which works in our faculties and collaborates with researchers, policy makers and communities around the world to address the plastics crisis. “

Supported by the Bioenergy Technologies Office and the Advanced Manufacturing Office, both within the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), BOTTLE seeks to work with businesses and other research organizations to combine the talents and capacities of the public and private sectors.

Rory Miles, Innovation Fellow at the Center for Enzyme Innovation, said: “We are delighted with this collaborative opportunity to work with global companies, bringing a valuable UK and European perspective to the consortium. With a new £ 1million industrial engagement hub, funded by Solent-LEP and the UK government launched in early 2022, we will enable and accelerate industrial engagement across the sector. I look forward to engaging with companies interested in commissioning R&D projects in this space to support their ambitions for circular recycling and sustainability. “

BOTTLE brings together a highly collaborative and interdisciplinary team of experts with experience in process development and integration, chemical catalysis, biocatalysis, materials science, separations, modeling, economic analysis and evaluation sustainability. The team includes members from five US national laboratories and DOE universities, including MIT, Colorado State University, Montana State University, and Northwestern University.

Gregg Beckham, CEO of the BOTTLE Consortium, said: “Plastic pollution is everywhere researchers look for it. The biggest advantage of the consortium is the passion that each partner has in working together for the common goal of solving one of the world’s greatest environmental problems.

If you are a company or organization interested in collaborating with CEI or BOTTLE, please contact [email protected]

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