Marine pollution is nowadays a huge problem in today’s world context of climate change. Indeed, we produce 300 million tons of plastic each year worldwide, half of which is for single-use items. That's nearly equivalent to the weight of the entire human population. This material takes a very long time to decompose, in fact, it can take up to 1000 years. Because of this, it accumulates in all the ecosystems of the planet. Most plastics in the ocean break up into very small particles. These small plastic bits are called "microplastics" and have a huge negative impact not only for us (humans - Figure 1) but also for all the biodiversity on earth. Our iGEM Aix-Marseille 2022 team believes that it is not too late to act. Therefore, this year we have decided to work in the degradation of these microplastics and more particularly, in the degradation of polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP) and polystyrene (PS), the categories of microplastics which are mostly present in the Mediterranean Sea, one of the most polluted seas in the world.

Figure 1 : From plastic bottles to people

It is about engineering a "plasticosome", a large bacterial extracellular multienzyme complex which degrades plastic. The particularity of this complex will be its specificity to recognise plastic through plastic adherent peptides that we have tested and specific VHH antibodies that we have found. We are also committed to raise public awareness on the issues surrounding the widespread use of plastics and plastic waste management while considering health, social and environmental challenges.

To do this, we divided the work into three parts :

Our team

For more information on each team member, click here