Back to the news page

How ‘super-enzymes’ that eat plastics could curb our waste problem

[…] The most advanced project is run by Carbios, a French biotechnology company. In September 2021 it opened a pilot plant in Clermont-Ferrand, where it will test a system for recycling PET. Carbios’s system uses an enzyme that was first identified in compost, which they modified so that it worked faster and could operate at high temperatures where PET is softer.


The advantage of these enzymes is that they break down the plastic at the molecular level, so it is possible to recreate the highest-quality plastic. In contrast, other forms of recycling cause a slow decline in quality, until eventually the plastic cannot be recycled again and gets landfilled or incinerated. Enzymatic recycling, in theory at least, is truly circular. “That’s what we call a closed-loop recycling system,” says Ramos. “You recycle something, but then you’re able to make something new of the same quality out of that.” To date, only a tiny percentage of plastics are being recycled in this way, but the enzymes could change that – “Which would be great.”


Read the full article