THE beworm PROJECT

Since 1950, humans have produced about 9 billion tons of plastic. Instead of recycling or reusing it, we thought it would be a good idea to litter in the environment. Well, we all know where that's headed. But nature came up with its own solution: In the last years research has documented over 90 different organisms, microorganisms and biomolecules that are able to break down long-chain polymers. 

beworm uses these bioagents to develop a biotic/biocatalytic recycling process, that decompose the oil-based material polyethylene, the world's commonly used plastics. We started our experiments with waxworms (who are still our spirit animals) but the real magic
is done by
 enzymes in their system. Those enzymes are the key to the solution! That's why we are searching for them by experimenting on three different levels, aiming to develop a scalable, efficient and ressource-saving process

LEVEL 1
ORGANISMS

Organisms like waxworms have shown awesome skills in our experiments, living and breeding on 
a plastics diet. They are a great starting point to understand the mechanisms of degradation!

LEVEL 2
MIRCOORGANISM

Most likely, bacteria and fungi produce the PE-degrading enzymes that we are looking for. We managed to isolate some of them out of the waxworms gut. Currently we are analysing them,
to find out what they are really up to!

LEVEL 3
ENZYMES

The most important part in the process is played by enzymes!
They act upon polyethylene as their substrate, and split it up.

Once the right ones are identified,

they can be optimised and produced

on an industrial scale.  

BUT HOW DOES IT WORK?

Polyethylene (PE)
is a polymer composed of long
hydrocarbon chains

The outcome of

the process could
be 
intermediates  
or 
oligomers 

Microorganisms

like fungi and bacteria

produce enzymes that can break up polymers like PE

The enzymes act on polyethylene as their substrate and degrade the material

Website_neu.gif

GREAT! SO I CAN LITTER WHEREVER I WANT?

Organisms and microorganisms can only handle small amounts of PE-plastics under the conditions they have in the environment. We have to optimise all parameters
in order to make the process efficient.
Although evolution is genius and organisms can adapt to almost everything, it takes a long time to come up with creatures that can handle all the trash that we put out there. But this is a good starting point in understanding how to handle plastic:
with respect! 
These are light-weight, long-lasting, high-performance materials.
So why would you throw them away without a second thought?

NO!

OKAY, BUT HOW COULD IT BE USED THEN?

Non-plastics 

are removed

Heterogenous

plastic waste

Concept-Process-Preview_update.gif

The Enzymes
degrade

the polyethylene

in a bioreactor

The waste gets

shredded into
smaller pieces

Pretreatment

with
abiotic methods

The intermediates 
could 
be used for
the
production

of bioplastics...

...or biofuels, oils 
or waxes

The other
plastics 
can be
further processed 

with conventional

methods

In a biocatalytic process that works in an industrial context and can be scaled up! The best thing about it?
It could be used in 
addition to the current methods (mechanical recycling) and close their gaps. 

AND HOW BIG IS THE PROBLEM?

Well, very big. This is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, one out of five trash islands floating around our the oceans. And yes, that's it's real size. 

1.600.000 km²

TIMELINE

2020

2021

2022

Big Goal

Milestones-3.gif

beworm starts its journey! 
The team moves
into the 
TUM Entrepreneurship Center and achieves a first Proof-of-Principle

 beworm gets a second lab at the
Innovation and Technology Center
FACIT and identifies some promising plastics-eaters
 

In 2022 beworm
aims 
to raise research funding to hire full time bioneers and accelerate the development
 

BIOTIC

RECYCLING

SYSTEM

THE BIONEERS

Core Team

Eleonore Eisath

MSc Industrial Design

Stefan.jpg

Stefan Szalay

MSc Biology
& Dipl. Ing. Electrical Engineering 

Verena Kopie.jpg

Verena Wolfarth
 MSc Biology (current)

Students & Volunteers

Erick Pano
MSc BioNanotechnology
MSc Management

Florian Wiethof
MSc Mechanical Engineering
BSc Informatics & Biochemistry
(current)

Maria Khomich
MSc Management
(current)

Patrick Seeburger
MSc Robotics, Cognition,
Intelligence (current)

Carlos Arévalo Villa
MSc. Biotechnology

 

OUR PARTNERS

XPLORE

THINK.

MAKE.

START.

TUM

ID

loparex_logo_white_vector_CMYK.png

Loparex is a leading
global manufacturer of release liners, serving customers with in-depth technical expertise and industry-leading
production technology
across operations in North America, Europe, and Asia.

Munich School

of BioEngineering

Initiative for 
Industrial 
Innovators

Chair of
Microbiology
Prof. Liebl

Carl Roth weiß.png

Carl Roth is a labware provider that maintains five branches in Europe and supplies customers in over 100 countries worldwide - on a convincing price-preformance rate.

FACIT
Innovation and 

Technology
Labs

WOMEN

STARTUP!

LAB INFRASTRUCTURE

Our main goal is to find out which bioagents are the most efficient for a PE-degradation process by experimenting with different organisms, bacteria and enzymes.

The Technical University of Munich 

supports us with an awesome lab
in Freising!

BENEFITS 

The beworm-project is ambitious, as it enters unknown terrain. Only a few teams worldwide are working on biotic and biocatalytic recycling systems. But we think that it could really make a difference, because it: 

SAVES 
RESOURCES

Unlike other recycling systems,

biotic recycling doesn't consume a lot of energy. Recycling polyethylene and producing recovered feedstock could reduce the need for virgin fossil fuel and the production of CO2 
(by preventing incineration)

Ressources icon.png
CHANGES
PERSPECTIVES

If you understand that something that we call trash can be food for another form of live, you might start seeing it from an other perspective.
Plastic is not the enemy, it's 
the way we handle it that causes so many problems! If we start seeing it as a source of value, things are
going to change.

Icon-Auge-.gif
RECYCLES
LDPE

PE is the world's most used plastic material, processed in many goods we use on a daily basis . 
But only HDPE can be easily recyled. LDPE is 
hardly recycled. Providing a working recycling system for LDPE would be a
huge step ahead.

PE icon.png
 

BECOME A BIONEER

To solve the plastic problem, we need a systemic change!
No matter if you are a scientist, industry expert or ecolover - we are always looking for strong partners in the fight for a cleaner planet.  Reach out to us using
info@beworm.org and become a bioneer now!

Blase.png

GET IN TOUCH!

Thanks!

Are you interested in collaborating? Or just curious? Leave us a message! 
We are constantly updating our website, so we would be happy to hear your opinion. Score us here!
 

Thanks!