How We Learned to Make the Best of 2021 Despite Corona-related Uncertainty

| By Leon Kirschgens & Jacqueline Plaster

2021 was a year of uncertainty. Corona has continued to affect us. Nevertheless, our partners are doing surprisingly well. Read here how we managed to chalk up 2021 as a success.

And already another MIX-UP year is over. A year full of experiences, full of progress, full of enthusiasm - on the one hand. But we also don't want to mince words. 2021, the second MIX-UP year, did not go as we had imagined. Once again, we were unable to visit the labs for a while, and once again we were only able to meet virtually. We know all too well from the previous year that successful projects are not only characterized by the fact that we publish a lot, but also by cultural and personal exchange.

And the most annoying thing: The situation will hardly change in the foreseeable future. The next meeting will take place in February. Will we be able to meet with all partners in Madrid? At the moment it does not look like it.

But we don't want to just lament at this point. Because it is a characteristic of our MIX-UP team that we can always achieve success despite the adversities. But read for yourself what our MIX-UP partners have to say about the year 2021. In the following, we have compiled a collection of quotes in which our partners report authentically on the highs and lows of the past year.

 

"The Mixup project has succeeded in two large scale productions of PHA in 200 cubic meters fermentors in 2021, allowing many tons of PHA to be produced for applications as mulching films and textiles. A company named (PhaBuilder) has been established this year based on the Halomonas app (www.phabuilder.com). Halomonas spp have been established as a platform to use waste stream for productions of various PHA.“

  • Tsinghua University

 

"Like every year, 2021 has presented both challenges and opportunities for Bioplastech. The pandemic has continued to disrupt our ability to meet with our partners in Mix-Up, but that hasn’t dampened our optimism. In fact, we have been blown away by a surge in public and industrial interest in both our Mix-Up work and biodegradable polymer alternatives in general. We hope that we are finally seeing a tipping point towards the sustainable and the circular."

  • Bioplastech

 

"2021 started difficultly with a campus-wide COVID-19 lockdown, but we were very happy to get back to full steam as the year progressed after vaccinations started coming available. We made some exciting discoveries around plastic monomer metabolism and look forward to implementing these into the MIX-UP concept. We hope that 2022 will bring the end of the pandemic crisis so can finally meet all project partners."

  • Forschungszentrum Jülich

 

"2021 has been a challenging year with COVID restrictions impending our ability to work and make progress as we would like but we have made progress on identifying the mixed cultures to be used to degrade mixed plastic monomers.  We are also learning more and more about the pathway for terephthalic acid degradation and the potential genes that could make the pathway more efficient. We are hopefully entering a productive time in the lab in 2022 so we can depend our knowledge and progress the technology"

  • UCD

 

"The MIX-UP year 2021 was one-of-a-kind. So much interest in the plastic crisis and solution thereof. Contributing to local events all the way to international conferences was satisfactory, while the second year in the row of no personal meeting in a multi country, multi continent project such as MIX-UP was surely not. Great to see that all of us contribute strongly by publications to the ongoing discussions, an aspect I am looking forward to in 2022, when we hopefully can even more interact with the international community. Much to do, indeed!

The many developments in the plastic market and the academic literature are just fantastic. We see rPET annoucments from so many companies, rPLA is now available for BOTTLES, and huge production announcements especially from China for PBAT, PBS, and PLA, cumulating to above 15 million tons. The progress of George Chen and partners on PHA production is to be mentioned: 1,000 t/a from 2022, 20,000 t/a from 2023/24. Wow! So much excitement in the sustainable plastic market. The challenges of reaching out to the 400 million tons per year of plastic produced are and will be still huge."

  • RWTH