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Two Young Hungarian Women Fight Plastic Waste with Bacterial Cocktail

Fanni Kaszás 2020.11.04.

Two young Hungarians have produced a unique bacterial cocktail which can break down any disposable plastic in seven weeks. With their biotech startup called Poliloop, they are now starting industrial testing after Budapest-based Vespucci Partners and Techstars, one of the world’s most renowned international accelerators, both invested in the company.

The founders of Poliloop, Liz Madaras and Krisztina Lévay, got acquainted at the master’s program in pharmaceutical chemistry and engineering at the Budapest University of Technology. They started their joint laboratory research after university classes and on the weekends from their own resources, during which they began to look at how they could help protect nature in their field.

According to their website, they “aim to offer an industrially relevant solution to deal with unrecyclable plastics by mimicking nature, using the once polluting plastic waste as a carbon rich foodsource for our bacteria, who in turn create valuable end-product for us to use and integrate into a global circular ecosystem.”

Poliloop’s degradation process, which completely eliminates plastic. (photo: poliloop.com)

After about two years of development, they have produced a bacterial cocktail that can break down all of the disposable packaging plastics used primarily in the food industry in 6-8 weeks. By the end of the process, the plastics will become nature-identical again. With the decomposition of the plastic, they get organic sludge and compost, from which bioplastics can be produced again. As they explain it on their website:

We created a bacterial cocktail that together consumes plastic packaging waste. They can use the carbon in plastic as a sole carbon source, integrating it into their metabolism. The process is akin to the way organic waste is consumed in composting piles, but the raw materials here are fossil based. What our bacteria have achieved is turning what was once a fossil-based product (plastic packaging) into what it originally was, millions of years ago, part of the natural ecosystem of Earth.

With this solution, Poliloop is creating a kind of circular economy that will allow large FMCG companies to reuse the same plastic packaging over and over again. The Poliloop process is able to remove plastic without any prior chemical treatment, processing or major cleaning, and no harmful substances are released during the process.

photo: Zsolt Czeglédi/MTI

Poliloop joined the American Techstars accelerator’s three-month Abu Dhabi program in early 2019, where they received advice on starting a business and business and product development. Since then, Liz Madaras has been in charge of management, Krisztina has been in charge of technological development, and Gábor Antal has been in charge of all operational tasks from procurement to the back office. The next milestone will be industrial testing, after which they hope to work with several multinational companies.

featured photo: the accumulated waste by the river Tisza in Kisköre. (Zsolt Czeglédi/MTI)