Clermont-Ferrand, France, based renewable chemicals firm, CARBIOS, is developing a technology that would allow the depolymerisation of 100% amorphous PET into its original monomers, TPA (terephthalic acid) and EG (ethylene glycol), thus enabling the materials to be recycled an infinite number of times.
The company explained that applying this selective depolymerisation to PET enables the regeneration of monomers while maintaining the same quality and physicochemical properties as their petroleum-based counterparts.
After separation and purification, the monomers extracted from the enzymatic recycling process could then be used for the synthesis of virgin PET, therefore avoiding any loss in value of the recycled material, said CARIBOS.
The properties of PET, such as flexibility, transparency, thermomechanical strength, lightness, durability, are said to make it an outstanding material favoured by most plastic bottles manufacturers.
However, according to CARIBOS conventional technologies implemented to recycle PET waste are very sensitive to contamination by other polymers and impurities. On a practical level this was said to involve sophisticated sorting and high costs, in return for a limited recycling rate.
Further, the company said that current technologies are leading to the production of secondary products of lower quality. Moreover, complex waste material made out of several polymers including PET cannot be recycled by conventional processes.
By rending PET endlessly recyclable with no loss in value whether it is plastic or fibre material composed of PET, the company said that it has created a solution to address today’s industry issues.
Moreover, CARBIOS said that its processes use highly selective enzymes, eliminating the need for a sorting step and offering the prospect of a 100% recycling rate and the production of high performance plastics composed entirely of recycled PET. It was also claimed to be a low energy consumption process, ensuring long-term control of the energetic cost of the process.
CARIBOS said the latest breakthrough was achieved within the THANAPLASTTM project, and is the result of a close collaboration between the Toulouse-based teams of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), the Toulouse White Biotechnology (TWB) and the Laboratoire D’Ingénierie des Systémes Biologiques et des Procédés (LISBP) from INSA Toulouse.
Pierre Monsan, founding director of TWB, said that the results reflect the success of a public-private partnership dedicated to the development of competitive ecological innovations optimising the life-cycle of plastics.
“We’ll soon be able to bring this disruptive innovation to an industrial stage,” he said.
Jean-Claude Lumaret, CEO of CARBIOS added: “These new progresses will enable us to pursue our efforts and undertake the development at the pilot scale of our PET recycling process and adapt this technology to the recycling of other plastic polymers.”
“We are also conducting advanced discussions with many major players in the industry in order to quickly bring our innovation to an industrial level,” he concluded.
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