Microbial chemical factories are sustainable biomanufacturing platforms that complement traditional petrochemical industries by using renewable and/or alternative carbon sources. Most attractive of these are those derived from unconventional microbes due to their rich repertoire of enzymes to efficiently process diverse carbon sources and unique capacity to catalyze certain industrial chemistries at scale. These properties are frequently a consequence of the high resource competition in their native exotic environments, such as animal microbiomes. However, these microbes remain poorly characterized with few tools to deploy them for industrial applications. In this talk, I will describe our progress towards the study and engineering of these systems for the use of post-consumer plastics and lignocellulosic biomass. In the first example, I will discuss anaerobic fungi native to large herbivore digestive tracts and describe approaches to deploy them today for direct production of fragrances and solvents from untreated agricultural residues. In the second example, I share our efforts discovering powerful enzymes for degradation of polypropylene and polystyrene from microbes native to the mealworm gut microbiome and efforts to engineer these strains.