The promise of endlessly recycled PET plastic is one step closer, as the Consortium – Carbios, L’Oréal, Nestlé Waters, PepsiCo, and Suntory Beverage & Food Europe – announces the successful production of the world’s first food-grade PET plastic bottles produced entirely from enzymatically recycled plastic.
Each Consortium company has successfully manufactured sample bottles – based on Carbios’ enzymatic PET recycling technology – for some of their leading products, including Biotherm, Perrier, Pepsi Max, and Orangina.
This announcement is the culmination of nearly ten years’ research and development by Carbios to create a new process and supercharge an enzyme naturally occurring in compost heaps that normally breaks down leaf membranes of dead plants. By adapting this enzyme, Carbios has fine-tuned the technology and optimized this enzyme to break down any PET plastic (regardless of color or complexity) into its building blocks, which can then be turned back into like-new, virgin-quality plastic.
Carbios’ patented enzymatic PET recycling process enables a wide variety of PET plastics to be recycled into virgin quality, food-grade rPET. PET plastics that would otherwise go to waste or be incinerated can now be brought back into a continuous circular system of recycling. And this can be achieved at high speed – breaking down 97% of plastic in just 16 hours – 10,000 times more efficient than any biological plastic recycling trial to date (peer-reviewed article in Nature).
According to the press release, together, these brands will scale this innovation to help meet the global demand for sustainable packaging solutions. In September 2021, Carbios will break ground on a demonstration plant before launching a 40,000 tons capacity industrial facility by 2025.
Commenting on the announcement, Carbios’ chief executive officer, Jean Claude Lumaret, commented, “In a world first, we have created food-grade clear bottles from enzymatically recycled colored and complex plastic with identical properties to virgin PET, and in partnership with the Consortium, we have proved the viability of the technology with the world’s leading brands. This is a truly transformational innovation that could finally fully close the loop on PET plastic supply globally so that it never becomes waste.”
Jacques Playe, L’Oréal’s Global head of Packaging and Product Development, added, “We have been working with Carbios since 2017 to develop this first bottle made from PET derived from enzymatic recycling technology, an alternative to mechanical recycling. We are pleased to announce today the feasibility of these bottles in a pilot phase and are delighted to be in a position to create the packaging of the future with our partners. This is a promising innovation for the years to come that demonstrates our commitment to bring to market more environmentally friendly packaging and which is part of a circularity initiative begun more than 15 years ago”.
Jean-Francois Briois, head of Packaging Material Science and Environmental Sustainability Nestlé Waters global R&D, added, “It is very exciting to see that the quality of the prototype bottles made from colored recycled PET materials is virtually identical to clear virgin PET. When we reach industrial scale, this enzymatic recycling technology will enable us to produce high-quality rPET bottles and help Nestlé Waters in our journey to boost the circular economy and reduce the use of virgin plastics.”
Ron Khan, Global vice president of Packaging, Beverages, PepsiCo, added, “PepsiCo is committed to building a circular economy to achieve our vision that packaging never becomes waste. We are dedicated to reducing the virgin plastic we use. With the breakthrough Carbios enzymatic recycling technology, we can help keep valuable material in the circular economy, reduce waste and take another step toward a truly closed-loop system.”
Roberto Vanin, chief R&D officer, Suntory Beverage & Food Europe, added, “The global issue of plastic waste requires transformational thinking, creative partnerships, and innovative brands coming together to seek out new solutions. Continued investment in new ways of tackling waste and creating true circularity such as this ground-breaking technology from Carbios will be key to Suntory Beverage & Food Europe achieving its 100% sustainable plastic ambition.”
Enzymatic recycling claims to overcome the degradation in conventional recycling and can be used on any PET plastic. Because Carbios’ recycling process works under mild conditions, it could also lower the carbon footprint of PET waste treatment by saving 30% of CO2 emissions than a conventional end-of-life mix of incineration and landfill, taking virgin PET production substitution into account.
The successful completion of these initial food-grade bottles is a significant milestone in the Consortium’s validation of Carbios’ technology. This partnership is part of a growing trend amongst brands to collaborate across industries to tackle these global challenges, working towards a world of circularity where we limit virgin plastic production.
Carbios will license its technology to PET manufacturers worldwide, accelerating the global adoption of enzymatic recycling for all kinds of PET-based products.