From May 31st to June 2nd,  2023 the UPLIFT project was showcased during the International Conference on Renewables Resources and Biorefineries (RRB2023) where Passanun Lomwongsopon, PhD fellow at Aalborg University (AAU) presented a poster entitled Development of microbial consortia for valorizing post-consumer polyethylene (PE)  via thermal-biological process in the area of Biocatalysis & novel fermentation processes.

The RRB2023 conference took place in Riga, Latvia and it was revolving around using biotechnology and green chemistry for the biorefinery of renewable raw materials for food and non-food applications. Since the event was focused on biomass biorefinery, Passanun had the opportunity to show the AAU work regarding the developed enzymes and microbial technology to depolymerize and upcycle plastics. So far, plastics can also become a renewable raw material.

“This year, there were many plastic bioupcyling projects presented at the conference (e.g., biotechnological upcycling of blended textiles, upcycling of Polyethylene Terephthalate to Polyhydroxyalkanoates and wax ester, a number of presentations about lactic acid fermentation for Polylactic acid production), indicating that plastic biorefinery is not impossible anymore and it is playing a main role in a new stream of biorefinery research” stated Passanun about the RRB2023.

The poster won the best presentation award due to its focus on PE upcycling process by firstly using pyrolysis to depolymerize PE plastic and recover the process’s waste called PE pyrolysis wax, which then was used as a carbon source in the bio-conversion process to produce a wax ester. The main biocatalyst is ‘enriched microbial consortia’ developed by enrichment on PE pyrolysis wax as the sole carbon source and then using Adaptive Laboratory Evolution to adapt the consortia in high concentrations of the wax.