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Development of microorganisms and thermophilic enzymes involved in the degradation and upcycling of fossil plastics


Plastic materials derived from fossils (PDF) exhibit exceptional properties, including durability, strength, and versatility, and are present in virtually every activity of everyday life. PDFs are inert compounds generally used for producing goods with a short life cycle. As a result of the intense use of PDFs in our society, humanity is facing severe socioeconomic and environmental challenges due to the disposal and accumulation of PDFs in terrestrial and marine environments. It is estimated that if the production and management of this waste follow current trends, we will have deposited around 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste in landfills and the natural environment by 2050. Mechanical and chemical recycling processes are important, but they are insufficient to contain the problems related to PDF pollution because the percentage of PDF recycled after disposal is relatively low. Furthermore, these processes are expensive and limited to low-contamination plastic materials. In addition, these processes generate waste and result in lower quality plastic materials that (at some point) will also be discarded and, in this way, only postponing the problem. Recent studies have shown that biotechnological processes are feasible for economically sustainable plastic waste management. Thus, research related to the biodegradation of plastics brings hope in facing the challenges related to the intense use of PDF by humanity, offering a sustainable and promising alternative that can operate in the light of bioeconomy concepts and, with this, promote economic and social benefits to the society. However, there are still scientific gaps in making PDF upcycling a reality, not only in discovering and developing enzymes with superior catalytic properties but also related to the characterization of catabolic biochemical pathways and the isolation of microorganisms capable of promoting PDF bioconversion. In this sense, the present project aims to fill gaps in the development of biotechnological processes for PDF upcycling by generating scientific results in three lines of work: Development of a thermophilic microbial consortium that degrades polyethylene; Isolation of thermophilic microorganisms capable of degrading polyethylene and; Cloning, expression, and characterization of proteins with thermophilic enzymatic activities related to PDF degradation. The area of PDF upcycling is progressing rapidly, and new technologies to address the pollution caused by PDF present economic opportunities. Thus, this research proposal has the potential to support not only scientific impacts relevant to the area but also support the development of bioconversion technologies with commercial appeal. (AU)

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Scientific publications
(References retrieved automatically from Web of Science and SciELO through information on FAPESP grants and their corresponding numbers as mentioned in the publications by the authors)
ANDRADE, VIVIANE BRITO; TOMAZETTO, GEIZECLER; ALMEIDA, DNANE VIEIRA; TRAMONTINA, ROBSON; SQUINA, FABIO MARCIO; GARCIA, WANIUS. Enzymatic and biophysical characterization of a novel modular cellulosomal GH5 endoglucanase multifunctional from the anaerobic gut fungus Piromyces finnis. BIOCHIMICA ET BIOPHYSICA ACTA-PROTEINS AND PROTEOMICS, v. 1872, n. 1, p. 11-pg., . (20/15595-3, 20/05784-3, 21/04254-3, 15/23279-6, 22/08958-8, 15/50590-4)

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