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Developing novel enzymatic activities for plastic biodegradation

Can you believe that plastic can be fully degraded simply by an enzyme in water and within hours? Watch for yourself!

We produced a newly engineered biocatalyst that breaks down more than 99.2% of disposable post-consumer plastic waste in water and within hours (without adding chemicals or using high temperatures). 
Watch for yourself!

Enzyme-based plastic degradation represents a valuable tool and a feasible solution for developing sustainable, environmental-friendly, and cost-effective plastic recycling processes from the circular economy perspective.

Pirillo et al., 2023. FEBS J.    

PI: Gianluca Molla and Loredano Pollegioni



Valentina Pirillo, Caren Battaglia





Not funded


  • Davide Tessaro, Politecnico di Milano, Milan, IT

  • Annalisa Grimaldi, University of Insubria, Varese, IT

  • Marcella Reguzzoni, University of Insubria, IT

Plastic pollution has become a global concern in any sector of the human society. This is due to the accumulation of post-consumer synthetic plastic waste, which are highly resistant to many physical, chemical and biological factors.

The chemical backbone of some plastic polymers, such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET), is more susceptible to enzymatic biodegradation, which provides a novel and eco-friendly strategy for removing and recycling plastic wastes.

This project aims at the production of an efficient polyester hydrolase suitable for PET degradation, through the application of protein engineering and in vitro directed evolution approaches based on literature- and database-screened enzymes active in the hydrolysis of PET (PETase). In silico analyses will be employed to target specific enzyme variants, reducing the time needed to unlock their full potentiality. The produced variants will show enhanced catalytic properties (e.g., an increased activity towards high crystalline PET) and an improved thermal and chemical stability.

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