The scientific journal Nature has published an article on French bio-based chemistry company Carbios and its work on chemical recycling, which Carbios says shows support for its work over the past nine years.
Carbios was founded in 2011 by Truffle Capital, a European fund investing in life sciences and information technologies to meet the environmental and sustainable development challenges facing manufacturers.
The article in Nature, which appeared under the title "An engineered PET-depolymerase to break down and recycle plastic bottles," was co-authored by scientists at Carbios and at its academic partner, the Toulouse Biotechnology Institute (TBI).
Alain Marty, Carbios' chief scientific officer and co-author of the article, said he was proud that Nature, which he called "one of the most highly respected scientific journals in the world," has validated the quality of the research led by Carbios and TBI laboratory scientists in developing a PET recycling enzyme and a revolutionary process.
"The results obtained confirm the industrial and commercial potential of the company's proprietary process, which will be tested in 2021 in our demonstration plant in the heart of the French Chemical Valley, near Lyon," he said.
"Carbios is the first company to successfully combine the two scientific worlds of enzymology and plastics," added Philippe Pouletty, CEO of Truffle Capital and co-founder of Carbios.
PET is one of the most commonly used plastics, finding application in products ranging from polyester clothing fibers, food containers, thermoformed packaging to bottles. While PET recycling is well established, the main process used is thermomechanical, which results in a loss of mechanical properties, say the article's authors.
The article describes how they engineered an enzyme that is able to biologically depolymerize PET waste. According to the researchers, chemically recycled PET that exhibits the same properties as petrochemical PET can be produced from enzymatically depolymerized PET waste. This can then be recycled into new bottles.
At the start of their development efforts, the team of Carbios and TBI researchers was able to achieve a degradation yield of PET waste of 1 percent after a number of weeks. Today, by contrast, this has been increased to 90 percent in 10 hours, a "paradigm shift" in how effectively PET can be recycled.
"It's a real breakthrough in the recycling and manufacturing of PET. 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 civilization as a whole," said Saleh Jabarin, a professor at the University of Toledo in Ohio and a member of Carbios' scientific committee.