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.
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!
We managed to isolate
out of the waxworms gut!
Currently we are screening and analysing them, to find the degradation's key enzymes!
The magic key!
Enzymes act upon polyethylene as their substrate, and split it up.
Once we identify the hottest candidates, we can scale up!
is a polymer composed of long hydrocarbon chains
The outcome of
the process could
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
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?
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).
in a bioreactor
The waste gets
could be used for
...or biofuels, oils
plastics can be
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.
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!
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!
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!
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,
MSc Industrial Design
& Dipl. Ing. Electrical Engineering
MSc Biology (current)
Students & Volunteers
Pepjin van Leeuwen
MSc Robotics, Cognition,
Carlos Arévalo Villa
What happened so far and what's next?
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
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
Who is supporting you?
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:
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)
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.
It recycles non-
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!
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 email@example.com and become a bioneer now!