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MIT Technology Review


Plastic is an environmental scourge, and most isn’t recycled. Enzymes, nature’s catalysts, may be able to help.


In late September, Carbios, a French startup, opened a demonstration plant in central France to test this idea. The facility will use enzymes to recycle PET, one of the most common single-use plastics and the material used to make most beverage bottles. While we’ve had mechanical methods for recycling some plastics, like PET, for decades, chemical and enzyme-based processes could produce purer products or allow us to recycle items like clothes that conventional techniques can’t process.


Because single-use plastics are largely derived from petroleum, by 2050 plastics might account for 20% of the world’s annual oil consumption. Reducing our dependence on plastics, and finding ways to reuse the plastic that’s already out in the world, could greatly reduce emissions.


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