Plastic recycling, especially PET plastic, is a complex issue that needs to be solved to protect the environment, as well as combat climate change. Among the technologies currently under development, the French start-up Carbios, after more than 10 years of research and experimentation, has become one of the leading “plastic-eating” mutant enzymes to recycle PET plastic. the company is a pioneer in the field of bio-recycling, “green” recycling.

With Carbios, in just a few years, France will become the first country in the world to have a PET plastic recycling plant with an industrial scale.

PET plastic recycling

PET plastic is commonly used in packaging for carbonated soft drinks, bottled water, milk, juice, jugs, food trays, bottles for household and pharmaceutical products, sheets and films for packaging. PET is a plastic that is labeled with a code number 1 on or near the bottom of bottles and containers.

In theory, most plastics today are recyclable, but in practice, plastic is the least recyclable material, mainly because it is difficult to mass-recycle: There are hundreds of types of plastic, Usually each type is designed and optimized for some specific product type. Recycling requires sorting waste by plastic type, color

Currently, PET plastic is still the most difficult plastic to recycle, and mainly transparent plastic bottles and jars are recycled. The current thermo-mechanical recycling method can only partially replace the source of raw materials, and can only be recycled up to 5-6 times, because after each recycling, the quality of plastic deteriorates.

plastic recycling

PET plastic recycling by enzyme technology

The technology of using enzymes to recycle PET plastic of French company Carbios seems to be able to overcome the disadvantages of the thermo-mechanical recycling method, so it is considered a breakthrough step, creating hope for transition to an economy. circular economy, contributing to protecting the planet and oceans from plastic pollution. In February 2022, Emmanuel Ladent, general manager of the French company Carbios, announced that it would build the first factory to recycle PET plastic with enzymes in Longlaville, Meurthe-et-Moselle province, northwest, at the facility of Indorama, the world’s largest producer of PET plastic.

And Carbios’ recycled plastic, which is expected to reach an output of 50,000 tons/year, will be used by Indorama company, Longlaville facility, as a material for polyester fabric production (35,000 tons/year) or transferred to Netherlands by Indorama to produce quality packaging for food, because even in France, there is no factory producing PET plastic packaging for food.

How does enzyme PET plastic recycling work?

In 2010, Carbios built an industrial production test facility with a 20,000 lit hydrolysis machine in one of the former factories of the Michelin tire factory, in Clermont-Ferrand, central France, with the participation of nearly 100 engineers, researchers and technicians. It is also the world’s first industrial-scale enzymatic PET recycling test facility: 2 tons of plastic, equivalent to 100,000 plastic bottles or 20,000 polyester T-shirts, are finished in just 10 hours.

On May 2, 2022, in the report of France Culture, Mr. Martin Stéphan, CEO of Carbios, introduced:

« Used plastic has been crushed, mixed well. We have all kinds of plastic of all quality and color. We put them in a machine, which is a plastic extrusion machine, with a screw, a heater, a spindle and a plastic crusher, and the heat melts the plastic scraps. Then the plastic will be in the form of pellets, small granules, the color of the plastic particles is completely uniform, because all have been crushed and melted together

Next, we pour these resins into a 20m3 (20,000 lit) hydrolysis machine, which we fill in with water, and heat it to 70 degrees Celsius. This is a very low temperature for a chemical reaction. Then we poured in the enzyme, our own enzyme, which we made ourselves. When enzymes come into contact with the plastic, they begin to break down the plastic molecule and split the plastic into its original components called monomers, which we then separate, distill and clean”

plastic recycling

PET plastic recycling process by enzyme is no harm to the environment, hundreds of times more effective than other competitors

Unlike chemical recycling technologies, which must use chemicals, one of the advantages of enzyme recycling technology is that it is natural and environmentally friendly, explained Mr. Emmanuel Ladent, general manager of Carbios. :

« The process is carried out without solvents, but only with natural ingredients. The big difference of enzyme plastic recycling technology compared to other recycling technologies is that we can apply it to any kind of PET plastic.

Our enzyme breaks down any PET plastic, regardless of its shape, which means we can start with a plastic bottle, recycle it into plastic and then use that plastic to make a T-shirt. -shirt, or vice versa, from a recycled T-shirt into a plastic bottle, through recreating the basic components of virgin plastic. By doing so, we are really, completely cyclical and we can accept any kind of plastic waste, where other technologies can’t.

The second big difference is that we recycle plastic at a low temperature, only about 70°C, while other competitive recycling processes require very high temperatures: above 200°C »

Because the basic components of primary plastic can be regenerated, according to Carbios technology, plastic can be recycled unlimited number of times and the quality of recycled plastic is kept as stable as when it was first prepared. which traditional thermo-mechanical recycling methods cannot do.

Carbios’ recycling method is rated to be 100 times more efficient than competitor methods. Large, well-known corporations in the world with high demand for plastics, such as L’Oreal, Nestlé Waters, PepsiCo, Suntory Beverage & Food Europe, Michelin … have successfully tested and produced packaging for Biotherm brands. , Perrier, Pepsi Max and Origina… with Carbios recycled plastic products. The French company has now signed many cooperation agreements with the aforementioned partners.