Insect microbiome for plastic waste valorization


DARWIN is one of the partners of the ENTOMOPLAST project, together with the University of Valencia and AIMPLAS. The research focuses on insect microbiomes as a tool for the valorization of plastic waste from multilayer packaging. The project received funding from the Generalitat Valenciana, the Valencian Innovation Agency (AVI), and ERDF Funds.




Plastics are essential materials for the manufacture of all types of packaging, whether commercial or industrial. Multilayer structures, in particular, are used for packaging food because they allow cost savings by adding additional layers. Additionally, they provide specific properties that make them ideal for food preservation and maintaining organoleptic qualities: sealing, structural and thermal stability, printability, and impermeability.


However, multilayer plastic packaging raises significant environmental concerns. In 2020, around 17.9 million tons of plastic packaging waste were generated in Europe, of which only 46% was recycled. A large part of this untreated waste is multilayer packaging. The main reason these materials are not recycled is the difficulty in separating the layers that compose them. This separation requires new technologies and processes that increase the cost of recycling, making it technically and economically unfeasible. Furthermore, there is currently low demand for recycled plastics.





The new European circular economy model establishes the need to increase plastic recycling rates and create viable markets to facilitate the process. Thus, the ENTOMOPLAST project aligns with the circular economy strategy for plastics, as its main objective is to investigate the insect microbiome with high potential to degrade plastics, thereby promoting the treatment of this waste to increase recycling rates profitably. It also aims to obtain high value-added recycled materials of biological origin.


DARWIN’s contribution to the project consists of creating collections of microbial strains with degrading activity, sourced from the gut microbiota of various insects, as well as developing a biological degradation process for waste with different insects and evaluating their potential to be used as a source of biologically-derived polymers and obtaining bioproducts of interest for the plastics industry.


Completion Year: 2023




This project consolidates the leadership of the Valencian Community as a pioneer in providing viable technological and economic solutions to a global environmental problem.


Additionally, it investigates technologies that, aside from solving the problem, can be implemented in niches such as bioremediation or recycling. Lastly, this project also opens the possibility of commercializing new products, such as microbial strains or enzymes capable of degrading different types of plastic.





Project cofunded by: