Engineering Microbes to Upcycle Agricultural Bioplastic
Lahiru Jayakody, Assistant Professor, Southern Illinois University
Today, 7.4 million tons of synthetic polyethylene (PE) plastic film being used in the agricultural sector as packing and mulching material. Bioplastics like poly(butylene adipate-co-terephthalate) [PBAT] are a suitable alternative to PE. However, techno economically feasible recycling technologies are not available to alleviate the negative environmental, energy, and social impacts of petroleum-based agricultural bioplastics. Hence, we have developed an innovative biochemical approach by engineering robust microbial cell factories to bio-upcycle agricultural plastic and produce high-value bioplastic precursors. We leverage the advanced biomass hydrolyzing techniques, namely oxidative hydrothermal dissolution (OHD) and engineered microbial funneling techniques, to generate the high-value precursor chemicals. The developed green technology establishes a circular material economy with profound environmental, energy, and economic impacts and long-term sustainability of agricultural systems.
To be submitted.