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What is beworm?

Since 1950, humans have produced about 9 billion tons of plastics. 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 is a startup project that wants to use 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 resource-saving process

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Organisms

LEVEL 1

Our 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!

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LEVEL 2

 We managed to isolate
PE-degrading bacteria 
out of the waxworms gut!
Currently we are screening and analysing them, 
to find the degradation's key enzymes!

Microbes

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LEVEL 3
 

The magic key!
Enzymes act upon polyethylene as their substrate, and split it up.

Once we identify the hottest candidates, we can scale up!

Enzymes

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

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But how does it work?

Great! So can I litter wherever I want now?

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?

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 sustainable methods (like mechanical recycling) and substitute the less sustainable ones (like burning). 

Non-plastics 
and high-targets

are removed

Heterogenous

plastic waste

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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

Is it really such a big problem?

Uhhhm, yes it is.  Look at this graphics. 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. We have to find solutions - now.

1.600.000 km²

 

Got it, so what can I do about it?

Building a biotechnology solution is not like building software, where all you need is a laptop.  We will need time, guts and money to achieve our big dream - but we are up for it! Help us to accelerate and support us by using one of our great additional offers!

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Adopt 

a Worm!


You want to support our

project cause you simply don't want the world to drown in plastics?

Adopt a worm for yourself or your loved ones to contribute to our research and a greener future!   

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Become 
a Bioneer!


You want to learn more about biotic recycling and what each of us can do against plastic pollution?

Book a 1h workshop for your event, conference, brown bag session or your grandma's 90th birthday!  

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Pack

the Future!


You want to have a sustainable 
packaging solution for your product but you don't know how?

 

With our unique team of engineers, 

designers and biologists we offer support in material research,

design and even branding!

 

Who are the Bioneers?

We are a dedicated team of biologists, engineers, designers and business people, all alumnis or students of the Technical University of Munich. United by the same vision, we joined our forces to make a real impact, 

Core Team

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Eleonore Eisath

MSc Industrial Design

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Stefan Szalay

MSc Biology
& Dipl. Ing. Electrical Engineering 

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Verena Wolfarth
 MSc Biology (current)

Students & Volunteers

Erick Pano
MSc BioNanotechnology
MSc Management

Pepjin van Leeuwen
MSc Management
(current)

Maria Khomich
MSc Management
(current)

Patrick Seeburger
MSc Robotics, Cognition,
Intelligence (current)

Carlos Arévalo Villa
MSc. Biotechnology

What happened so far and what's next?

2020

2021

2022

Big Goal

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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 incorporate & raise research funding to hire full time bioneers and accelerate the development

 

Biotic

Recycling

System!

Where is this magic happening?

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!

 

Who is supporting you?

XPLORE

THINK.

MAKE.

START.

TUM

ID

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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.

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Munich School

of BioEngineering

Initiative for 
Industrial 
Innovators

Chair of
Microbiology
Prof. Liebl

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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!

Circular

Futures

And why should I support you?

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: 

It saves
the world!

Okay, maybe that's a bit exaggerated :)
But it saves resources, as it 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)

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It 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.

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It recycles non-
recycled materials!

PE is the world's most used plastic material, processed in many goods we use on a daily basis . 
But only HDPE can be well recycled. LDPE is 
hardly recycled when it
is part of a multilayer, dirty or colored.
 Providing a working recycling system for those products

would be a game changer!

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Fine, you convinced me, how can I talk to you?

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!

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Thanks for visting beworm!

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!

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to support us?