Through our business model, we aspire to help resolve the plastic pollution problem through different
aspects. We plan to commercialize our dual enzyme system S245I PETase and S245I PETase-MHETase in the
form of chimera and cocktail while also connecting with correlated industries in a business manner. By
partnering with other companies, we want to create an integrated chain of processes for sustainable
Chemical recycling has become a main recent trend as it has the potential to form a closed cycle from
waste to product, which demonstrates a circular economy. Carbios, the pioneer of the industry, has
already reached a market capitalization of 444 million euros (515M USD) within just 10 years(according to
company information provided by Euronext on 18th, October). This proves that the industry is fast-growing
and has great potential.
Our dual enzyme system is capable of depolymerizing PET plastics quickly on a small scale, as well as
completely digesting PET plastics to its constituting monomers which can then be theoretically used to
form new plastics, effectively forming a closed PET recycling loop.
Our core competencies include 100% recycling of PET plastics. Also, our dual-enzyme system can be applied
to old plastics that cannot be recycled using traditional chemical recycling methods. At the same time,
this applies to mixed plastics including films or bags, which is something mechanical recycling systems
have not yet to accomplish. Furthermore, there are currently no factories and companies using the enzymatic
PET degradation technology in Hong Kong.
Finding and constructing more efficient PET-digesting enzyme systems, and carrying out the enzymatic
recycling of PET is a project that brings a lot of opportunities as there is a large demand for recycling
PET bottles, given that currently recycling of PET bottles takes a long time. As the project progresses,
we may be able to enter the recycling industry with this demand for recycling PET, as we are able to
break down PET to its monomers more efficiently. As of 2019, Bali, Indonesia has banned single-use
plastics. Countries such as the UK, Canada and more have started to take action on banning plastic bags
. This could be a great opportunity for our dual enzyme system as PET bottles left off from the past
have to be processed. It is certain that plastic banning has become a trend worldwide. As the market of
PET recycling and processing expands, our technology has great potential and sustainability to find our
own place in the market.
Our challenges along the way of implementation can be divided as follows:
As of now, our main issue lies in the commercialization of our dual-enzyme systems. Our dual enzyme
system is currently in the research phase, and have yet to be fully commercialized. Although we
suggest that our dual enzyme S245I PETase/MHETase system in the form of cocktail or chimera
depolymerizes PET faster than that of WT PETase, the depolymerization speed of our dual enzyme
system remains to be investigated for recycling at large scales. Research and development on
increasing the industrial scale will be carried out in order to increase investors and clients’
confidence in our system in the long run. To tackle R&D issues, we will collaborate with
universities as they can advise and strengthen our research works, while giving us access to
technologies and apparatuses at the same time.
Later, when the project expands, we will need bottles for recycling, which requires the
cooperation of parties who are responsible for the collection of plastics, for example
companies that are known for using large amounts of plastic like beverage companies, and the
companies that operate reverse-vending machines. This challenge might be tackled with
partnerships with said companies. Also, we will have to reach younger people to promote our
project and promote recycling, so that they would become more aware about plastic pollution.
We will also need to consider clients who would buy our enzymes. We plan to approach
companies in the chemical industry for them to utilize our enzyme systems.
Despite our enzymatic systems having potential in the recycling of PET, it is
known that there are other parties also researching the same aspects of enzymatic
recycling of the aforementioned PET plastics, which means that competitors in the
same field may pose threats for us in obtaining a patent.
From the data of the Environmental Protection Department in Hong Kong,
around 1.64 million tonnes of municipal solid waste were recovered in Hong
Kong in 2019, of which 12% was recycled locally and the rest was exported
to other places . More than 2300 tons of plastics are produced daily in
Hong Kong. Despite most plastics being sent to Mainland China for further
recycling, there is still a lot of plastics yet to be collected and
processed in Hong Kong . Therefore, we still have potential to stand in
the market. Moreover, there is no chemical recycling plant located in Hong
Kong. In addition, traditional mechanical recycling requires a lot of land
for building a plant. This may be a reason why there are very few recycling
plants in Hong Kong. As enzymatic degradation does not require a lot of
large equipment, we do not need a large piece of land. This would serve as
an advantage for us to enter the market as the supply of land is very
In this context, “efficient” means that our small-scale experiment with the
digestion of our dual-enzyme system can degrade PET bottles using much less
time as compared with the same setup using only WT PETase.
Our primary source of PET would be plastics collected from the coast. We
plan to redesign our drone to tailor it for collecting PET plastics and
loading it with our PET plastic detecting algorithm so that they would be
able to detect and collect plastics at the same time. We also plan to
collaborate with Clearbot, our long-time advisor throughout our journey in
iGEM. Currently, Clearbot collects oceanic plastic with their robot,
Wavester. We wish to tailor Wavester for collecting PET plastic
specifically by implementing our own PET plastic-detecting AI onto the
robot. This would serve as an alternative source of plastic. Not only from
coastlines, but also from oceans.
After receiving the plastic bottles, we would process it using our
dual-enzyme system and digest the bottles into the monomers of PET,
terephthalic acid(TPA) and ethylene glycol(EG). We could also sell the
monomers themselves to chemical companies such as BASF for further
processing into PET bottles.
From our business model, we hope to connect with the entire industrial
chain of plastic recycling.
1. Licensing our PETase-MHETase chimera to other companies
The recycling rate of some developing countries is still very low.
Certain sources claim that in Singapore, only 4% of plastic wastes
are recycled. Despite the higher recycling rate, only 24% of the
plastic wastes are recycled in China. In addition, there are
currently no companies that are working on recycling plastic using
enzymes in many of these countries so we have a large potential
market. Our revenue would be generated through licensing fees from
these companies. However, this remains as one of our long term
milestones for the future as it is difficult to search for partners
that are willing to join us.
Even though plastics may not be recycled through enzymatic
degradation, many countries still collect and sort their plastics and
send them to recycling plants. However, it may be difficult to
collect plastics from coastlines or sort out different types of
plastic. We can further develop our plastic detecting AI to make it
capable of differentiating different types of plastics to make the
sorting of plastic more convenient.
Our proposed investors include those in the green industry, the government,
and in the long run, well-known venture capitals. Given that investors
generally prefer to stick with well-known and well-established technology,
we need to demonstrate that our enzymatic recycling technology exists and
that there is a need for the tech in order to attract them. We could
attract business angels to fund and support our startup project as they are
prepared to take the risks. At a later stage, we could start negotiating
with well-known investors who are interested in green projects and/or are
carrying out green investments, for example HSBC and the green fund. As our
project is still in the early stages, we are not at the point of attracting
large investors yet.
In approaching investors, we must show them that the technology of our
system works by degrading a whole PET bottle, and that there is a need for
it given that the dual-enzyme systems are able to recycle mixed plastics.
To achieve this, we plan to obtain testimonials from investors to see how
the system could be improved in order to carry out updates and potentially
obtain more fundings, new investors and clients by attracting them further.
We plan to demonstrate and publish our technology to
potential investors and show them that our technology is essential to the
recycling industry and attract investors through fundraising events, and
obtain fundings from the Environmental Protection Department.
Our potential partners include those who have much experience in green
activities, for example a green organization Plastic Free Seas. As enzymatic
degradation pathway is a new method of recycling, there are not many people
who are familiar with this method. With the help of such experienced partners,
we could further promote our dual enzyme systems to more audiences and we
could explore more of our potential investors or customers. Such NGOs can help
us reach the public and promote our project, as well as increasing awareness
of the general public, no matter at school talks or on other occasions.
Besides partners in the green industry, we also plan to collaborate with
universities, as mentioned previously, since they can give us advice and
strengthen our research and development. We would also approach Hong Kong
Science and Technology Park for the incubation of our project given their
expertise with startup technology companies.
Also, since we plan on resynthesizing PET plastics and carrying out the
depolymerization as well, we may approach companies in the chain of production
for advice on technology usage and production processes.
We plan to obtain a patent to protect our technology. We will have to spend
money to employ a patent lawyer who goes through if anyone has a similar
patent-in other words, expensive patent searches. We hope to apply for a
patent for our novel dual enzyme system approach technology on the breaking
down of PET. The dual enzyme system can synergize the PET depolymerization
process at a faster speed, which may possibly revolutionize the recycling
industry that is currently dominated by mechanical recycling.
As with all chemical recycling plants, collecting, storing and even potential
pollution and fires must be accounted for. Plastic and enzyme storage
conditions, such as temperatures and pressure need to be further optimized. A
detailed protocol for using the bioreactor or chemical handling has to be
created as well.
Finally, safety issues on bioreactor, storage freezer or chemical handling
have to be tackled as well. We should be cautious in handling our proteins,
because we don’t have any idea whether the protein will mutate or not if it is
released into the wild. The enzymes, if stored at -80°C in appropriate
conditions, can be kept for up to 2 years.
On 15/10/2021, we visited the Hong Kong Science Park and interviewed
representatives of the company BioArchitec. We sincerely thank HKSTP Mr.
Hamlet YU, BioArchitec Mr. Sam Chow and Mr. Kelvin Pong for their insightful
suggestions. In addition, we thank Mr. Nigel Mattravers from New Life Plastics
for his practical advice, and for sharing his experiences with us.
: Waste Recycling Statistics | Waste Reduction Website. (2020, December
21). Environmental Protection Department.
: Hillebrecht, H. (2020, November 20). Hong Kong and the mission to solve
the plastic problem. AHK
: Goulopoulos, S. (2019, July 2). Bali officially bans all single-use
plastic to curb ocean pollution. New York Post.