ENHANCING THE BIODEGRADABILITY OF POLYOLEFINIC MATERIALS VIA FUNGAL MYCELIUM STRAINS
Synthetic polymers have been widespread in the last 50 years due to their lightweight, durable and tuneable physical properties, suitable for a variety of applications. In particular, polyolefins (POs) constitute almost 60% of the total plastic content of municipal solid waste. POs recycling worldwide sets below 10%, the remaining waste material, main reason being the inappropriate disposal of single-use packaging. As a drawback of the widespread incorrect disposal and the longevity of the materials, plastics have accumulated in the environment worldwide, provoking devastating effects on the wildlife. Therefore, the necessity to develop strategies to reduce the accumulation of these polymeric wastes in the environment has become extremely urgent. Furthermore, the importance of these strategies not giving rise to additional harmful waste is paramount.
To address this pressing need the inventors have turned to chemistry and biotechnology to enhance the potentiality of polyolefins biodegradation. The claimed process focuses on a two-fold strategy consisting of the design of a pre-treatment step, with a fatty reagent which loosens the polyolefinic chain packing, and subsequent incubation with a fungal mycelium capable of degrading the material. The selection of the appropriate fungal strains that can efficiently oxidize the polyolefinic material is crucial. For example, a white-rot basidiomycete fungal mycelium, Agrocybe aegerita (Aae) has been demonstrated to be also capable of degrading polyolefins effectively.
- Recycling plants;
- Plastic re-purposing.
- Requires little amount of energy;
- No use of harsh process parameters nor chemicals.