UK – London-based Total BioDesignTM Company, Epoch Biodesign has secured US$11 million in a seed funding round to scale bio-recycling capabilities for plastic in the United Kingdom.

The round was led by Lowercarbon Capital, with participation from BoxGroup, Amadeus Capital Partners, MCJ Collective, Zero Carbon capital, VOYAGERS Climate-Tech Fund, The Venture Collective, and more.

The proceeds will be directed towards the expansion of their protein design platform, construction of new R&D facilities and further development and scale-up of their first solution.

The business uses biology to “develop natural solutions to unnatural problems.” The company’s first solution – bio recycling – uses a tuneable enzymatic process to transform plastic waste into everyday chemicals.

According to the firm, around 460 million metric tons of plastic are produced every year. Due to the complexities of plastic waste, recycling rates remain “unacceptably low.”

As a result, creating virgin plastics is cheaper and easier. Today, most plastic produced is landfilled and burned.

Valuable carbon is wasted and the chemical industry continues to use high-energy, fossil-based processes to meet growing demand.

Epoch’s solution will reduce our dependence on fossil resources and lower the carbon emissions of chemical production, all whilst cleaning up plastic waste.

“Advances in biology and computing have given us tools to solve some of our most pressing challenges,” said Jacob Nathan, CEO of Epoch.

“Using enzymes to unlock plastic as a new resource for our economy has the potential to dramatically reduce our reliance on fossil resources and slash carbon emissions from the chemicals industry. This technology will change how we think about waste.”

Nathan added that today plastics recycling is low since it’s so expensive and complex compared to simply refining oil into fresh plastic.

Epoch has flipped this dynamic on its head by designing plastic-eating enzymes to finally make recycling profitable.

Biodegradation as an alternative

Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Queensland, Australia, have discovered a species of worm with an appetite for PS, highlighting they could be the key to plastic recycling on a mass scale.

The common Zophobas morio “superworm” can eat through PS, thanks to a bacterial enzyme in its gut.

Swedish researchers have also discovered that plastic-degrading enzymes are increasing in correlation with plastic pollution in the world’s natural environment.

The research group at Chalmers University identified 30,000 enzyme sequences with the potential to degrade plastic, including plastic bags, according to PackagingInsights.

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