We mixed it up!

| By Jacqueline Plaster

Coming together is a beginning,

Keeping together is progress,

Working together is success

Henry Ford

With these words project coordinator Prof. Lars Blank started our joint project MIX-UP on the 5th February 2020 at our KickOff meeting in Brussels.

First, we’re going back to the start. What was MIX-UP about? The main idea of MIX-UP (MIXed plastics biodegradation and UPcycling using microbial communities) was to showcase a novel approach for plastic recycling and therefore addresses one of the greatest challenges of our time: the establishment of a circular (bio)-economy for plastics. The ground-breaking objective is: plastic waste to plastic value - by a sustainable, biotechnological conversion of unsorted, mixed plastics into valuable bioplastic using heavily engineered enzyme mixtures and mixed microbial communities.

After the European partners visited China during the last General Assembly in October 2023 – now the Chinese partners of the consortium visited the headquarter of the MIX-UP project – the RWTH in Aachen. The Chinese partners were joined by the European partners form Germany, Ireland, France and Spain. For the first time the whole MIX-UP team met personally in one room – a major milestone that has been postponed again and again since the project start during the pandemic. Besides fruitful discussions and international exchange, we had a lot of fun during coffee breaks, joint business dinner’s, visiting tours in the laboratory of the Institute of Applied Microbiology (iAMB) and a guided tour through Aachen. The international guests particularly enjoyed our “Aachener Printen” – a local type of cookie typical of the region.  It was the final general assembly of the whole project followed up by the Technical Review with the EC on the last day. The joy of success, but also the knowledge that something big is coming to an end, accompanied us on this visit. Although we are looking forward to all new upcoming research projects and chances to work together. The results? We will give more insides in our next blog article!

Now, at the last general meeting after four successful years of the project, we took a look at the whole project. What did we achieved? What were the highlights, what were the challenges? We asked the partners within the MIX-UP consortium!

Check it out! First, we asked our heads of the joint consortium! 

Prof. Lars M. Blank, Project Coordinator of the MIX-UP consortiums, RWTH Aachen: 
"The biggest achievement of MIX-UP is: 15 European partners, 4 Chinese partners, all pulling together and working on a sustainable plastics economy. The old technology is linear, in the future we will have a circular technology! It is quite clear that we cannot produce 400 million tons of new plastic every year. We have to recycle it and by recycling we put a price on waste! And that will also reduce the plastic in the environment. We need higher recycling rates and we need to give plastic waste a value. At MIX-UP it is a hard fight to get such a project. After 4.5 years, we really need to bring it to an end. It's a sad moment! But we have achieved a lot and were able to meet in person, not just via Zoom. And now we have to finish it together. I'm really happy that we had such a good ending to such a good project and I'm looking forward to working with some of the colleagues on future projects too!" 

Prof. Min Jiang, Programme Coordinator of Chinese Consortium Nanjing Tech University China: 

“MIX-UP brings together a strong mix of universities, institutes and companies! Despite the limited opportunities for in-person interactions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was one particular moment that stands out vividly in my memory.During a collaborative session at Nanjing Tech University, MIX-UP members gathered to exchange ideas and engage in various activities. Amidst our discussions and work, we found a moment to bond over an unexpected pastime: playing baseball. The experience of learning and playing baseball together fostered a sense of camaraderie and teamwork that transcended our professional endeavors. Throughout the course of the project, our team has dedicated extensive efforts to the discovery and characterization of plastic-degrading microorganisms and enzymes. We have delved into the intricate mechanisms underlying the biological degradation of plastics and have successfully demonstrated the feasibility of utilizing plastic materials for high-value bioconversion. We firmly believe that these research findings will serve as a pivotal foundation for future endeavors in plastic biodegradation research worldwide. By uncovering the fundamental aspects of plastic degradation and showcasing practical applications for plastic valorization, our work contributes to advancing the field of biotechnology and addressing the pressing issue of plastic pollution.”

In the next blog post, we will give more insights from other partners of the consortium! :-)