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CARBIOS announces next step in development of enzymatic biorecycling process for plastics

New technology applicable to global market of PET-based plastic bottles, packaging and films

Clermont-Ferrand, France-based CARBIOS, a green chemistry company specializing in enzymatic bioprocesses applied to plastic and textile polymers, has announced that it has taken a major step forward in the development of its enzymatic biorecycling process of polyesters by rendering it applicable to crystalline PET (polyethylene terephthalate), and therefore to all kinds of plastic waste containing PET, namely bottles (transparent, opaque or multi-layer), packaging and films. This follows CARBIOS' previous announcement that it had successfully depolymerized 100% amorphous PET based commercial products into its original monomers, TPA (terephthalic acid) and MEG (mono ethylene glycol).

This new step is a world premiere that confirms the applicative potential of CARBIOS' technology and offers the opportunity of an infinite biorecycling of plastic products made out of amorphous and/or crystalline PET. This enables CARBIOS to access a market estimated to be worth more than 31 billion dollars[1] per year.

The patented depolymerization process developed by CARBIOS enables the regeneration of monomers with no loss in quality. After separation and purification, these monomers could then be used for the synthesis of virgin PET coming at 100% from CARBIOS enzymatic biorecycling process.

This new milestone, achieved within the THANAPLAST project, highlights the effectiveness of the collaboration between the teams from CARBIOS, the LISBP laboratory and the CRITT Bio-Industries from INSA Toulouse (under the aegis of TWB). By developing a new and competitive pretreatment process of crystalline PET associated with its selective depolymerization, this public-private partnership reflects the potential of this disruptive innovation to move swiftly into an industrial pilot development stage.

Alain Marty, Chief Scientific Officer of CARBIOS says, "I'm proud that CARBIOS, the LISBP and the CRITT Bio-Industries teams met this incredible challenge that was to create a 100% recycling process for bottles (water,milk...) and cosmetic packaging products. This success is the result of a multidisciplinary approach combining the screening of microbiological biodiversity, the discovery of a remarkable enzyme, its evolution by enzymatic engineering, and process engineering."

The market of PET plastics represented a world production of 21 million tons in 2014[2], with an annual growth rate of 4 to 5%[3]. The exceptional properties of this thermoplastic material make it the most favored polyester for manufacturing plastic bottles (69% of PET plastics), films (14%), packaging (10%) and other applications (7%). However, conventional technologies to recycle PET involves heavy sorting constraints for a limited recycling rate and above all, the production of lower quality secondary products.

CARBIOS provides a first-ever solution to satisfy demand of PET plastic manufacturers and meet current issues of the recycling industry. By making amorphous and crystalline PET infinitely recyclable, CARBIOS opens a new market which will enable the production of high performance plastics composed entirely of recycled PET. This solid and highly selective technology offers in the meantime the ability to efficiently treat plastic waste that is currently not recycled. This will also support the orientations of the European Commission "Circular Economy Package" [4] to reach at least 55% of recycling for plastics by 2025.

"These results comfort our innovative industrial approach in PET based plastic biorecycling and offer the prospect of an early deployment of our proprietary technology together with the largest global players in this industry" stated Jean-Claude Lumaret, CEO of CARBIOS.