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Carbios and Novozymes strengthen partnership for PET bio-recycling

January 22, 2023
Chemical Value Chain

Carbios and Novozymes are entering an exclusive long-term global strategic partnership to ensure the production and supply of Carbios’ proprietary PET-degrading enzymes at an industrial scale. Together the companies will build the world’s first biological PET-recycling plant due to start production in 2025 in Longlaville, France, as well as Carbios’ future licensee customers.

“Strengthening the existing partnership paves the way for scaling up Carbios’ unique biological recycling of plastic waste, such as PET packaging commonly used in the food or cosmetics industry,” Carbios shares with PackagingInsights.

“For the packaging industry, Carbios’ technology is one of the solutions to meet regulatory directives, such as the European Directive on ‘Single-Use Plastic’ – a mandatory minimum target of 25% recycled content in new plastic bottles by 2025 and 30% by 2030.”

As a pioneer in the development and industrialization of biological technologies to reinvent the life cycle of plastics and textiles, Carbios deconstructs any PET (the dominant polymer in bottles, trays, and textiles made of polyester) into its basic components, which can then be reused to produce new PET plastics with equivalent quality to virgin ones.

“We are delighted to expand our partnership with Novozymes, the world leader in biological solutions, and to build on our existing relationship to provide a sustainable supply solution for our future customers,” says Emmanuel Ladent, CEO at Carbios.

“Novozymes’ continued support is a testament to our commitment to achieve a truly circular economy for plastics and textiles that will benefit the environment and be economically viable for all business partners.”

Strengthening circularity
Carbios has developed an enzymatic biodegradation technology for PLA-based (a bio-sourced polymer) single-use plastics.

This technology can create a new generation of plastics fully compostable at ambient temperatures, even in domestic conditions, integrating enzymes at the heart of the plastic product.

“In contrast to current recycling methods, such as mechanical recycling, Carbios’ biological recycling of PET allows for many more cycles of recycling than the current recycling methods, with an aim of true circularity,” the company shares with us.

“Another benefit of Carbios’ biological recycling technology is that it is more environmentally-friendly – no solvents are used and less energy is required because the depolymerization process functions at 70°C (lower than thermomechanical recycling methods).”

Construction of the plant will begin later this year, and building and operating permits have been filed with local authorities. Production at the plant is set to start in 2025, and the processing capacity will be 50,000 metric tons of waste per year.

“Expanding the partnership with Novozymes means that companies relying on PET in their production processes will have more access to sustainable material and can play a role in tackling the problem of plastics pollution,” Carbios says.

In 2017, Carbios and L’Oréal co-founded a consortium to contribute to the industrialization of its proprietary recycling technology. Committed to developing innovative solutions for sustainable development, Nestlé Waters, PepsiCo and Suntory Beverage & Food Europe joined this consortium in April 2019.

In 2022, Carbios signed an agreement with On, Patagonia, Puma and Salomon to develop solutions promoting the recyclability and circularity of their products.

Biocatalytic solutions
In August last year, researchers from the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology developed an engineering platform capable of evolving enzymes for PET depolymerization with characteristics necessary for an industrial-scale PET degrading biocatalyst.

Elizabeth Bell, a leading scientist in this research, told PackagingInsights that “biocatalytic recycling is an exciting complementary strategy to add to the plastics recycling toolkit. Previously one of the challenges to using biocatalytic recycling on a wider scale was the lack of suitable enzymes and an inability to engineer them to meet process demands quickly and efficiently.”

Moreover, back in 2020, PackagingInsights reported about Carbios harnessing the research from the Toulouse Biotechnology Institute, France, that demonstrated biologically recycled PET – exhibiting the same properties as petrochemical PET – can be produced from enzymatically depolymerized PET waste before being processed into bottles.

“Our depolymerization process is very tolerant of feedstock and doesn’t require pure PET feedstock. It works with clear, colored, opaque and even multilayered bottles and packaging products as well as polyester fibers,” co-author Sophie Duquesne from the Toulouse Biotechnology Institute, Bio & Chemical Engineering, told us.

“It is possible to recycle multilayer packaging containing polyamide or polyethylene in addition to PET. That is the case for most sparkling water bottles containing two internal layers of PET and one layer of polyamide to avoid CO2 leaking. At the end of the depolymerization process, said polyamide will be a final waste,” elaborated Duquesne.

Regarding the strengthening of the collaboration Hans Ole Klingenberg, vice president of marketing agricultural and industrial biosolutions at Novozymes says: “We are excited to advance our collaboration with Carbios by signing this exclusive agreement and to support the next phase of scaling this new business of biological plastic recycling.”

“By providing biological solutions at a large scale, Novozymes is pleased to contribute in bringing Carbios’ bio-recycling of PET-plastics and fibers to market.”

By Radhika Sikaria


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