With currently just 12% of the materials used for clothing being recycled globally, textile recycling has some very considerable ground to make up. Mechanical technologies , however, have proven inefficient, with the few textiles that are able to be reused generally being down-cycled into a lower quality applications, such as padding, insulators or rags.
For a number of years, now, France-based Carbios has worked to develop biological processes based on enzymes that would break down PET plastic waste into its original components, including a key monomer called purified terephthalic acid (PTA), that could be reused to produce new, virgin-quality PET. The company produced its first PET bottles made from PET produced through this process last year.
Today, the company announced it had reached a new milestone, with the successful production of the first bottles containing 100% recycled rPTA derived not from mixed PET waste but from from textile waste with a a high PET content.
The process, which makes use of highly specific enzymes, opens up access to an additional PET waste stream of up to 42 million tons per year, worth over $40 billion.
“We can now produce transparent bottles from polyester textile waste or from post-consumer colored bottles. said Professor Marty. said Professor Alain Marty, Chief Scientific Officer of Carbios. “This works both ways – so we can also make a t-shirt from bottles or disposable food trays.”
Already, the company has demonstrated that PET fibres for textile applications can indeed be produced from 100% rPTA, derived from enzymatically recycled PET plastic waste.
The developments were achieved as part of the Circular Economy PET research project led by Carbios and its partner Toulouse White Biotechnology. This project was financed by the French Environment and Energy Management Agency, ADEME.
Carbios was established in 2011 by Truffle Capital , with the aim of developing an industrial solution to the recycling of PET plastics and textiles. Its innovative enzyme recycling technology has been recognized as a breakthrough by the peer-reviewed, multidisciplinary science journal Nature and the company ismoreover supported by the brands L’Oreal, Nestle, PepsiCo, and Suntory as well as multinational manufacturer Michelin and Novozymes, the world’s largest enzyme producer.