Enzymes for Added Sustainability and Efficiency

Enzymes to build and degrade polymeric backbones: it is daily business at B4Plastics. Understanding the interaction between enzymes and backbones or building blocks, forms the focus area of EnzymASE, a multi-partner project leveraging the biocatalysis capabilities in Flanders. The developed technology will be used in the synthesis of commercial products opening new markets for materials synthesis and their degradation.

Vegan Leather is a member of CrossRoads2: Sustainable Energy, which is financed by Interreg V Flanders-Netherlands, the cross-border cooperation programme with financial support from the European Regional Development Fund.

The Problem

Enzymes are nature’s catalysts – making and breaking down an endless variety of materials and compounds every day, every second, to sculpt the natural world around us. In theory, enzymes could sustainably solve some of the biggest problems in the industrial world, such as breaking down plastic waste, reducing the amount of pollution entering the environment, and avoiding the need to mine expensive inorganic metals for catalysts.

Although enzymatic reactions can be carried out under mild conditions, in large quantities, and with high specificity, they are still not the preferred catalysts for industrial reactions. Understanding the reasons for this requires us to look into other factors important to manufacturers, such as cost, adaptability, and catalytic efficiency under specific conditions. With the EnzymASE consortium we will tackle these problems head-on.
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    Market volatility

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    Harsh conditions

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    Enzyme efficiency

A deeper dive into the problem

There are several barriers which hinder the use of enzymes in industrial reactions, a major one being price. The market volatility of many enzymes deters many producers from considering them as a viable option for their manufacturing process.  Furthermore, the harsh conditions of many industrial reactions are detrimental to enzymes, meaning that the reaction would have to be adapted to suit the biocatalytic process. Finally, many enzymes are unable to catalyse reactions at the same rate or efficiency as their non-enzyme counterparts, and further decline in efficiency during their use.

Each of these issues must be addressed and improved upon with experimentation, enzyme engineering, market studies, and by finding the exceptional cases where biocatalysis outperforms inorganic catalysis in all areas. Addressing these questions is where EnzymASE comes in.

The Solution

To enhance the market potential of biocatalysis, EnzymASE links manufacturers with researchers at Flemish universities to improve the biocatalytic efficiency of selected industrial reactions, and upscale the production of the optimised enzymes.

At B4Plastics, by designing and synthesising unique bio-based and biodegradable polymers from their building blocks, we see the intrinsic bonds and structures that give our polymeric materials the desired properties in their end application. For the EnzymASE project we perceive the whole reaction process as the focal point for innovation, to find the best balance between sustainable process and product. 

This involves finding the right biocatalyst through screening it against various polymeric materials, coordinating with our partners in academia to upscale the best candidate enzyme, and then optimising its biocatalytic efficiency in a variety of conditions. The interaction between

researchers and industrial manufacturers in the consortium gives the best opportunity for innovation and real-world product development. This is the final aim of EnzymASE: to develop market-competitive commercial products through biocatalysis, fully incubated in the heart of Flanders.

A deeper dive into the solution

For more information on EnzymASE, please contact our dedicated team. We will be happy to answer your questions.

Technical Readiness Level

Level 1
Product demonstration

Eureka moment in the head






The Value Chain

Steps in the value chain

Transitioning from lineair to circular

Raw material production

and use


  • 1

    Raw Material

  • 2

    Monomer production

  • 3

    Polymer production

  • 4

    Plastic conversion

  • 5

    Production of plastic products

  • 6


  • 7

    Collection/ sorting and recycling

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    End of life

Bio-based value chain The Project B4Plastics 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Raw material production

1 Raw material

Sugar-rich waste exstracted from sugar beets.

This project has received funding from VLAIO under grant agreement No. HBC.2019.0087. https://catalisti.be/project/enzymase-2/