The upcycling of post consumer polyethylene to a biodegradable plastic: Waste to value added product

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Resource or Project Abstract

The EPA is tasked with being an environmental champion so that Ireland can achieve the objectives of the national waste prevention programme and EC waste directive The EPA funded a research consortium led by UCD researchers to investigate novel methods to tackle the problem of farm plastic (polyethylene (PE)) waste in a sustainable manner that could support the green economy. This research followed an interdisciplinary approach to converting post consumer waste (PE) into value added biodegradable material. Process chemistry, microbiology, bioprocesses engineering, chemical engineering, material science and nanotechnology were combined to convert PE to a biodegradable polymer. PE makes up the largest proportion of worldwide waste plastic and is used widely in agriculture. Farm plastic waste, made of PE, was subjected to a two-step treatment to produce a biodegradable plastic. The researchers further improved their process through chemical and biological investigations and developed applications for the biodegradable polymer produced. The properties of the biodegradable plastic were improved through the use of nanotechnology. The project results are being exploited by a University College Dublin spin out company Bioplastech Ltd operating in the green space. Thus job creation, new recycling technologies and environmentally friendly products are arising from research funding to build the waste plastic to biodegradable plastic technology at a larger scale in Ireland and internationally.

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Contact Information for This Resource

Dr. Kevin O'Connor
University College Dublin

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Attachment Name and Download Link
Project Report Optimised For Online Viewing    STRIVE_107_OConnor_Plastic_web.pdf  (1.64 Mb)
Att 2    Summary_of_Findings_STRIVE_107_Kevin_O'_Connor.pdf   (0.2 Mb)

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Author(s)O'Connor, K.
Title Of WebsiteSecure Archive For Environmental Research Data
Publication InformationThe upcycling of post consumer polyethylene to a biodegradable plastic: Waste to value added product
Name of OrganisationEnvironmental Protection Agency Ireland
Electronic Address or URL
Unique Identifierbca3cd3b-a8dc-11e2-9085-005056ae0019
Date of AccessLast Updated on SAFER: 2024-07-23

An example of this citation in proper usage:

O'Connor, K.   "The upcycling of post consumer polyethylene to a biodegradable plastic: Waste to value added product". Associated datasets and digitial information objects connected to this resource are available at: Secure Archive For Environmental Research Data (SAFER) managed by Environmental Protection Agency Ireland (Last Accessed: 2024-07-23)


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SAFER-Data Display URL
Resource KeywordsBiopolymer: Resource efficiency; polyethylene; petrochemical plastic waste; Biodegradable
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project Code2008-ET-LS-1-S2
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project ThemeEnvironmental Technologies
Resource Availability: Any User Can Download Files From This Resource
Limitations on the use of this ResourceAny attached datasets, data files, or information objects can be downloaded for further use in scientific applications under the condition that the source is properly quoted and cited in published papers, journals, websites, presentations, books, etc. Before downloading, users must agree to the "Conditions of Download and Access" from SAFER-Data. These appear before download. Users of the data should also communicate with the original authors/owners of this resource if they are uncertain about any aspect of the data or information provided before further usage.


The project results are being exploited by a University College Dublin spin out company Bioplastech Ltd operating in the green space. Therefore, all information contained whithin the reports and datasets related to this project are deemed confidential. Any Information contained in any documents, licences, records, data, software, source codes or products, including, without limitation, technical know-how, design rights, trade secrets, technical data, analyses, compilations, concepts, technical processes, formulae, specifications, inventions, research projects, customer lists, operational methods, financial information, marketing information, market opportunities and other business affairs, are deemed confidential. Since the information is considered to be confidential, the user shall not, without prior written consent of the author, Kevin O?Connor, disclose, reproduce, copy, transfer or forward any of it to anyone or anybody, be it real or virtual, to any legal entity or body, company, consortium or group of company, association, charity or non-profit organisation.
Number of Attached Files (Publicly and Openly Available for Download): 2
Project Start Date Friday 1st August 2008 (01-08-2008)
Earliest Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Friday 1st August 2008 (01-08-2008)
Most Recent Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Tuesday 30th October 2012 (30-10-2012)
Published on SAFERFriday 19th April 2013 (19-04-2013)
Date of Last EditFriday 3rd January 2014 at 16:52:18 (03-01-2014)
Datasets or Files Updated On Friday 3rd January 2014 at 16:49:45 (03-01-2014)

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Geographical and Spatial Information Related To This Resource

Description of Geographical Characteristics of This Project or Dataset
Lab project - experimental set up and techniques - a) growth and PHA accumulation experiments from various substrates employing multiple bacterial strains - carried out in shake flasks and in fermentor; b) cell dry weight analysis performed by weighting samples, quantity and quality of accumulated PHA and utylised substrates performed by GC and GC-MS analysis; c) molecular genetics - cloning of genes, generating plasmids, performing knock-outs of genes. Main equipment used - Sartorius Biostat fermentor range; HP GC and GC-MS; Biorad BioEngine PCR; open chromatographic column;

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Supplementary Information About This Resource

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Lineage information about this project or dataset
"The depletion of fossil resources and the need to reduce waste generation has brought resource efficiency into sharp focus for Europe (Resource Efficient Europe) and in Ireland (EPA strategy 2013-2015, DECLG 2012). In its communication ?Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe? the European commission highlighted that there is a need to increase our resource efficiency 4 to 10 fold by 2050 with significant improvements in the shorter term (2020). Resource efficiency is at the heart of European agenda for improving competitiveness and profitability while delivering sustainability and employment.
Currently over 70% of the 480 thousand tonnes of petrochemical plastic waste managed annually on the island of Ireland (338,356 tonnes in the Republic and 144,00 tonnes in Northern Ireland ends up in landfill (RX3, 2011). Within the recycling space in Ireland and globally there is a need to develop technologies to manage plastic waste so that their environmental impact can be minimised the recycling rate is increased and valuable environmental friendly products can be created from them. "
Supplementary Information
The major outputs of this project are patented technology and products, highly skilled university graduates who have gained employment in an Irish university (UCD), spin out company (Bioplastech Ltd), which has licensed the innovative technology and will begin trials in 2013 to scale up the process. The research team have developed a process that could be described as ?Upcycling? which is essentially creating a high-value useable product from waste

This is a unique world first technology developed in Ireland and demonstrates that Ireland through investment and vision can lead the way globally in environmental technologies. The development of technology and the creation of highly skilled jobs are in keeping with government policy for employment and wealth creation in Ireland through green growth
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