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‘Infinite Recycling’ of Plastics Possible With New Joint Venture

Taking a step in its efforts to find new bio-industrial solutions to reinvent the lifecycle of plastic and textile polymers, Carbios, based in Clermont-Ferrand, France, announced an exclusive partnership with Danish biological solutions company Novozymes.

The joint development agreement secures the production of Carbios’ proprietary PET-degrading enzymes at both a demonstration level and an industrial scale. Carbios said the agreement also represents a critical step in demonstrating the positive environmental impact of its technology and ensures it can provide customers with a sustainable solution for the “infinite recycling” of PET-based products, such as water and soda bottles, plastic packaging and textiles.

“Many years ago, we envisioned the great potential of enzymes to bring PET-based plastics and fibers into the circular economy,” Jean-Claude Lumaret, CEO of Carbios, said. “Following a first partnership on PLA biodegradation with Novozymes that began in January 2019, [this] agreement on PET recycling reinforces our collaboration…We are proud to share this common ambition to preserve the planet’s resources and to work together with Novozymes to help build a more sustainable world.”

Carbios has developed a biology-based solution that uses enzymes to break down widely used PET plastics and fibers. Unlike the limited recycling potential of mechanical processes, Carbios’ approach gives new value to plastic, preventing post-consumer plastics from turning into waste.

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The agreement with Novozymes, along with the support and vision of Carbios’ consumer brand consortium, which includes L’Oréal, Nestlé Waters, PepsiCo and Suntory Beverage & Food Europe, brings the company’s patented solution one step closer to industrial and commercial reality.

“At Novozymes, we help bring biological answers to many of the global challenges we face today,” Jens Kolind, vice president of household care global marketing at Novozymes, said. “We are happy to expand our collaboration with Carbios where we work together on finding biological solutions to address the significant sustainability challenge of plastic pollution.”

Drawing on the company’s proprietary enhanced recycling technology and the extensive experience of its partners, Carbios will launch the construction of a demonstration plant for the recycling of PET-based plastics and polyester fibers in 2020. The first operations are expected to begin in 2021, prior to a large-scale industrial deployment.

Since its creation in 2011 by Truffle Capital, Carbios has developed, through biotechnology, two industrial processes for the biodegradation and recycling of polymers. These innovations optimize the performance and lifecycle of plastics and textiles by exploiting the properties of highly specific enzymes.

Research and development in fiber recycling has picked up steam. Recently, Worn Again Technologies, an upstart polymer recycling technology firm, opened a pilot research and development facility as a major step on the path toward commercialization.

The pilot plant is designed to validate and develop Worn Again Technologies’ proprietary process that separates, decontaminates and extracts PET polymer and cellulose fiber from cotton from non-reusable textiles and PET bottles and packaging to re-enter supply chains as raw materials and become new products as part of a circular, continuous cycle.