France’s Carbios Turns Textile Waste Into New Products With Enzymes

Carbios, a French technology company, has unveiled a pioneering enzymatic recycling process, marking a new era in the way PET (polyethylene terephthalate) waste is managed. This innovative method allows the conversion of waste into recycled and recyclable products without any degradation in quality, utilising naturally-occurring enzymes to turn plastic and textile waste into new products.

The company asserted that it is “the first to have developed industrial biological processes bringing plastic and textiles into the circular economy.” The development comes at a critical time as the need for PET circular recycling grows more urgent, according to an article by the European Commission.

Currently, the European Union recycles less than 40 per cent of its generated plastic waste. Of the 14 million tonnes of PET products consumed annually, about half is incinerated, while a quarter ends up in landfill. The recycling of PET textile waste is almost non-existent.

Until the advent of Carbios’ solution, conventional thermomechanical recycling faced limitations as it could only manage clear plastic. The recycling of complex and contaminated plastics was nearly impossible.

The €3.3 million ‘Life Cycle Of Pet’ project led by Carbios has advanced the field of plastic recycling. Operating a demonstration plant in Clermont-Ferrand, central France, since 2021, the company utilised a specially modified enzyme known as PET hydrolase. It is designed to operate at increased speeds and higher temperatures, decomposing plastic at its molecular core.

The journal Nature emphasised the significance of this enzyme, reporting that ‘this highly efficient, optimised enzyme outperforms all PET hydrolases reported so far.’ Through this enzymatic process, PET waste, including textiles like polyester, is biologically ‘depolymerised,’ resulting in new polymers comparable to virgin petrochemical plastics.

Dr Saleh Jabarin, who advised on the project, hailed it as “a real breakthrough in the recycling and manufacturing of PET.” He further stated, “Thanks to the innovative technology developed by Carbios, the PET industry will become truly circular, which is the goal for all players in this industry, especially brand-owners, PET producers, and our civilisation as a whole.”

With the success of the demonstration plant, Carbios is now preparing to expand into a full-scale industrial circular economy. Emmanuel Ladent, CEO of Carbios, confidently noted, “We have demonstrated our ability to enzymatically recycle complex waste to produce new bottles and fibres and have proven the robustness of our process.”

Carbios’ ground-breaking initiative represents a potential paradigm shift in plastic and textile recycling. It’s “a springboard for a sustainable future and an introduction of plastics and textiles into a true circular economy,” added Ladent.



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *