Globally, 359 million tons of plastic waste are generated annually. It is estimated that 150-200 million tons accumulate in the natural environment each year. Much plastic waste is single-use and, thanks to its engineered durability, will persist for thousands if not millions of years. This project aims to radically change the way plastic waste is processed via a new biotechnology paradigm: engineering highly active enzymes and microbes capable of breaking down polyesters in a decentralized network of “living” waste receptacles. In parallel, the researchers are building a quantitative model of human behaviors involved in plastic recycling and are in active dialogue with leading apparel companies, as they explore options for a start-up venture that can scale and bring the technology to market for consumer adoption.
Learn more about the Environmental Venture Projects grant program and other funded projects.
Jennifer Cochran (Bioengineering)
Craig Criddle (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Erin MacDonald (Mechanical Engineering)