The French biotechs Carbios and Toulouse White Biotechnology have been awarded €7.5M to industrialize their plastic recycling programme, which uses enzymes to break down waste.
The funding comes from the public initiative Investments for the Future Program, which is aimed to foster innovation in French industries. The €7.5M is to be paid in installments over a period of 39 months. Carbios is the leader of the project, and will receive up to €4.1M of the total.
The funding will help to accelerate the industrialization of Carbios’ technology, which aims to recycle plastics containing the polymer polyethylene terephthalate (PET), commonly found in textiles and bottles.
Unlike current plastic recycling processes, Carbios’ ‘biorecycling’ method uses specially designed enzymes to break down plastic polymers, without needing intense heat. Unlike current processes as well, Carbios’ technology could create new plastics with the same quality as that of plastics made from petrochemical sources, allowing the PET plastic to be recycled an infinite number of times.
The money will help with Carbios’ efforts in scaling up this biorecycling process to a point where the company can prove that it works at an industrial scale. This includes the construction of a demonstration plant, which is one step below a full commercial plant and designed to demonstrate the viability of the process. The construction of the plant will start in Saint-Fons, France, in mid-2019.
Toulouse White Biotechnology is contributing to the development of Carbios’ biorecycling process. For example, it supported a molecular modeling study that linked the 3D shape of the enzymes with their efficiency. This information allowed Carbios to improve the efficiency of the enzymes in the breakdown process.
Carbios has other high-profile supporters. In 2017, the cosmetics giant L’Oréal acknowledged the problem of plastic waste, forming a consortium that endeavors to industrialize Carbios’ technology.
Reducing plastic waste is the aim of other companies as well. The German chemicals giant BASF produces biodegradeable plastic materials. The Dutch company Ioniqa recently received a loan from the Coca Cola company to help industrialize its technology to recycle PET plastics using magnetic fluids rather than enzymes.
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