Recipient of a Silver Medal and a Nomination for Best Part Collection
A bio-based device to improve the rate of PLA plastic breakdown for application in local composting systems
Canadians throw away over 3 million tonnes of plastic waste every year. Only 9% is recycled while the rest ends up in our landfills, waste-to-energy facilities, or the environment.
Polylactic acid (PLA) bioplastic is one of the main plant-based plastics used worldwide.
Under controlled industrial conditions PLA plastics breakdown can still take up to 90 days.
Compostable PLA plastic is being introduced as a green alternative to petroleum-based single-use plastics in Canada's fight towards net-zero emissions by 2050.
The issue? PLA plastic isn't fit for our local waste management facilities that handle traditional food compost. The temperatures required are too high, and the rate of breakdown is not fast enough. Considered a contaminant in recycling facilities, this "green" solution is only further amplifying the accumulation of plastic waste in Canadian landfills.
Combining naturally occurring enzymes and an Lpp-OmpA anchor surface display mechanism, we designed a device which can synthesize and surface display enzymes to effectively degrade PLA plastics.