University’s plastic eating enzyme work wins sustainability awards

Two people closely observing scientific research

The Centre for Enzyme Innovation was recognised for its ground-breaking work on enzyme-enabled technology that provides circular recycling solutions

  • 25 November 2021
  • 4 min read

The University of Portsmouth’s Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI) has won two of the top prizes at the Big Sustainability Awards 2021.

The CEI was awarded Public Sector Project of the Year and Circular Economy Innovation of the Year at the Awards, which are run by the Southern Sustainability Partnership.

The Centre was recognised for its ground-breaking work on enzyme-enabled technology that provides circular recycling solutions to one of the world’s greatest environmental challenges – plastic waste.

In 2018, Professor John McGeehan led an international team of researchers who engineered a naturally occurring enzyme that could break down polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the type of plastic used to make single use drinks bottles, returning it to its original monomers, or building blocks so it can be used to make new products.

Sustainable solutions for plastic recycling are at the heart of our ambitions at the CEI and are very much aligned with the goals of COP26, reducing our use of fossil resources and developing greener processes that cut greenhouse gas emissions

Professor John McGeehan, Director of the CEI

The Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI) was then established in 2019 following a £5.8 million award from Research England. Its aim is to discover and engineer new enzymes that break down plastics and then to work with industry partners to transform the research into real-world solutions. 

Professor John McGeehan, Director of the CEI, said: “Sustainable solutions for plastic recycling are at the heart of our ambitions at the CEI and are very much aligned with the goals of COP26, reducing our use of fossil resources and developing greener processes that cut greenhouse gas emissions. We are delighted that our work in developing low carbon and low energy recycling technologies has been recognised for these awards”

Lucy Cooper, Regional Partnership Director at CityFibre who sponsored the Public Sector Project of the Year Award, said: “CityFibre is delighted to have sponsored such an important award, particularly at a time where all eyes are on sustainability in the wake of COP26. The new recycling technology sounds ground-breaking and CityFibre is proud to be playing a part in helping drive that forward.”

The new recycling technology sounds ground-breaking and CityFibre is proud to be playing a part in helping drive that forward.

Lucy Cooper, Regional Partnership Director at CityFibre

Following a further £1million award from HM Government “Getting Building” scheme through the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, the CEI is now establishing an industrial engagement hub. This will provide a unique environment for industry and academia to work together to shape, refine, develop and test the new technologies emerging from this ground-breaking research.

Rory Miles, Innovation Fellow for the CEI, said: “I am delighted at the timely recognition that these awards provide, as we prepare to launch our Solent LEP/HM Government-funded Industrial Engagement Hub. The awards recognise our work to drive innovation, through connecting our fundamental research with projects that have the potential to impact the economy and society. We’re moving forward on our work with organisations to scale and adopt our potentially transformative bio-recycling enzymes.” 

 

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