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New bio-recycling process can handle ‘all kind of plastic waste’

France – Green chemistry company Carbios in France has announced that its innovative enzymatic bio-recycling process of polyesters is also applicable to crystalline polyethylene terephthalate (PET). ‘This means it can treat all kind of plastic waste containing PET, namely bottles, packaging and films,’ the firm says.

Carbios had previously managed to successfully depolymerise 100% amorphous PET based commercial products into its original monomers, terephthalic acid and mono ethylene glycol. This new step is a ‘world premiere’ that is said to offer the opportunity of an ‘infinite bio-recycling’ of plastic products made out of amorphous and/or crystalline PET, which enables Carbois to access a market estimated to be worth more than US$ 31 billion per year.

The patented depolymerisation process enables the regeneration of monomers ‘with no loss in quality’, Carbios says. After separation and purification, these monomers could then be used for the synthesis of virgin PET coming at 100% from Carbios enzymatic bio-recycling process.

The competitive pre-treatment process of crystalline PET will likely move swiftly into an industrial pilot development stage, so says Carbios and its project partners the LISBP laboratory and the CRITT Bio-Industries from INSA Toulouse.

The market of PET plastics represented a world production of 21 million tons in 20142, with an annual growth rate of 4 to 5%3. The exceptional properties of this thermoplastic material make it the most favoured polyester for manufacturing plastic bottles (69% of PET plastics), films (14%), packaging (10%) and other applications (7%).

However, Carbios points out that conventional technologies to recycle PET involves ‘heavy sorting constraints’ for a limited recycling rate and above all, the production of lower quality secondary products.

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