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Only 31% of all plastics entering waste management systems are recycled, while the rest are incinerated or landfilled. Moreover, microplastics generated during the decomposition of this waste represent an additional environmental problem. In the agricultural sector alone, plastic mulch is one of the main sources of the accumulation of microplastics in soil. Agriculture is responsible for approximately 3.5% of the total global use of plastics, which amounts to over 12 tonnes of plastic per year.
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RECOVER aims to address this, using a combination of micro-organisms, novel microbial enzymes, earthworms and insects. This European project, funded by BBI JU, aims to demonstrate and scale up this new biological approach to tackle the problem of agro-food plastic waste and help solve the contamination of agricultural fields with non-biodegradable agro-plastics.

An additional benefit is that this will produce new raw materials for biofertilisers for the primary sector and the bio-based industry (chitin and chitosan).


It has long been known that insects and earthworms can naturally absorb and digest plastics. What is new is that this ability is stimulated by strengthening their natural microbiome with probiotics. These biotechnological processes will be developed in two scenarios. One is their use in insect rearing chambers or composting reactors for non-recyclable plastics from waste (household or agricultural plastic). Another approach is in situ treatment, i.e. directly in plastic-contaminated soils, including mulch layers.

The project will propose an appropriate strategy for the collection and delivery of waste to the biorecycling plant. It will use decision support systems, plastic tracking tools, equipment and logistical studies. It will also establish simple and reproducible conditions that can be reproduced in farms or municipalities.

The RECOVER project is a research and innovation action that started on 1 June 2020 and will last four years. The project brings together 17 multidisciplinary partners, some from two other BBI-JU H2020 sister projects, ENZYCLE and BIZENTE. They will investigate the combined action of novel enzymes, microbial communities, insects and earthworms for the sustainable recycling of food packaging waste and agricultural plastic waste streams.

More information can be found on the RECOVER website.