French biotech Carbios has managed to create plastic bottles from 100% recycled plastic using its specialized enzyme technology.
The company’s recycling process focuses on plastic made from polyethylene terephthalate or PET, one of the most commonly used plastics. Importantly, it can be also be used to create customized bottles, a requirement for many brands.
Carbios is a leader in this area and has previously managed to break down 97% of PET waste into its component parts for recycling purposes. It also showed that new PET could be made using completely recycled purified terephthalic acid — a component used to make PET.
The process Carbios uses harnesses the power of engineered enzymes to break down plastic waste. The company recently partnered with Toulouse White Biotechnology to help improve the efficiency of its enzymes and also to roll out their biorecycling on a more industrial scale.
“With the construction of our demonstration plant to start later this year, we’re aiming to engage the whole plastics industry in a transition towards a circular economy and take a leadership role as a global license provider for the biorecycling of PET plastics and fibers,” commented Jean-Claude Lumaret, CEO of Carbios.
Carbios is not the only one developing enzymes to breakdown PET. It might seem futuristic, but plastic-eating bacteria Ideonella sakaiensis were discovered outside a bottle recycling plant in Japan in 2016. Inspired by the bacteria, American and UK scientists have since developed an enzyme they have called ‘PETase’ that breaks down PET.
While this might seem like competition for the French company, current rates of plastic breakdown with this enzyme are low compared with the extremely high rates achieved by Carbios and its proprietary enzymes.
Biorecycling is just one aspect of Carbios’s business. The company is also working to create biodegradable and bio-sourced plastics, something that is greatly in demand at present. Several big players are working on producing the best biodegradable or bio-sourced plastic, including the German chemicals giant BASF. Carbios is also collaborating with a number of partners on its own projects including Novozymes and L’Oreal.
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