Back in style: using enzymes to recycle PET from branded clothing – News

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Carbios is expanding its PET recycling technology so that used polyester products made by four major companies can be sent back to the company to be broken down and made into new fibers.

FRENCH biotech company Carbios has signed an agreement with On, Patagonia, Puma and Salomon, to accelerate the commercialization of the company’s biorecycling technology so that footwear and clothing containing PET can be returned by customers and biologically broken down into their basic elements to be reused in new articles.

PET, also known as polyethylene terephthalate, is a type of plastic made from fossil fuels that is widely used in everything from bottles and packaging to clothing, footwear and sportswear. Each year, approximately 350 million tons of PET are produced worldwide, of which 52 million tons are used as fiber for the textile industry.

But, despite the huge amount of PET produced every year, the market consensus is that there will soon be a shortage of PET bottles, as they will be used for circular production methods in the food and beverage industry, Cabios said.

With clothing manufacturers under pressure to make their products more sustainable, using fibers from old clothes as a raw material for new clothes is a viable option, but more needs to be done to achieve the ambitious recycling development targets set by the four major brands.

To create this circular economy of used plastics and fibers, Carbios has developed a biorecycling process that uses an enzyme capable of selectively extracting PET, which can then be transformed into virgin fiber.

Carbios aims to scale up PET recycling technology so that used polyester products made by the four companies can be sent back to the company to be broken down and made into new fibers.

“Fiber-to-fiber recycling is a key element in closing the loop within the textile and footwear industry,” said Adrianne Gilbride, Senior Sustainability Manager at On. “Our partnership with Carbios and the other consortium members is an important step in enabling the industry to implement revolutionary circular technologies at scale.”

Carbios’ enzymatic technology makes it possible to recycle all kinds of waste, including transparent, colored and opaque plastics, complex packaging and textile fibers. They are also working with other multinational brands such as L’Oréal, Nestlé Waters, PepsiCo and Suntory Beverage & Food Europe to implement technology and reduce plastic waste.

Along with recycling PET, the company’s research teams have also developed an enzymatic additive that accelerates the biodegradation of PLA (plastic of vegetable origin). The additive is directly integrated during the manufacturing process of the packaging to allow the packaging to become 100% compostable, even at room temperature.

Recently, Cabios announced plans to build a manufacturing facility leveraging its PET bio-recycling technology at Indorama Ventures’ PET production site in Meurthe-et-Moselle, France.

The company expects the facility, which will have the capacity to process around 50,000 t/y of post-consumer PET waste – the equivalent of 2 billion PET bottles or 2.5 billion PET trays – enters service in 2025.

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