Close-up of a recycling logo on a bin

#Environment

Bringing plastics back to life

Environment > Bringing plastics back to life

You can read this in about 3 minutes

Could this be the start of a brand-new era for recycling?

16 July 2021, 4:21 PM

Share

Check this out: after nearly a decade of research and development, a new enzyme is being used to break down plastic waste - allowing it to be completely recycled into like-new plastic.

Top brands including L’Oréal, Nestlé Waters and PepsiCo have had a major breakthrough with plastic recycling. Carbios, a French company in the field of biochemistry who are closely linked with these brands, has unveiled a process that turns our recycled waste into like-new plastic bottles.

Plastic that would otherwise go to waste or be incinerated can now be brought back into a continuous system for recycling. Plus, this process can be achieved at high speed – breaking down 97% of plastic in just 16 hours – that’s 10,000 times more efficient than any biological plastic recycling trial to date. Speedy Gonzales! 

So, how exactly does it work?

Well my friend, as you may already know, substances in plants and animals that speed up biochemical reactions - the transformation of one molecule to a different molecule inside a cell - are called enzymes and they can build up or break down other molecules.  

Enzymes that naturally occur in compost heaps, breaking down leaf membranes of dead plants, can be supercharged. Zooooooom! These supercharged enzymes can break down any kind of plastic and turn it into quality plastic bottles. Neat, huh?

Traditional plastic recycling often relies on complex, energy-intensive processes that require lots of different methods to tackle the various types and colours of plastic. As a result, plastics can usually only be recycled a limited number of times, and it is estimated that only around 9% of all plastics produced to date are completely recycled.

10 million tons of plastic are dumped in our oceans every year.

The successful completion of this process is a major milestone for Carbios’ technology and could significantly lower the carbon footprint of plastic waste treatment. Carbios will license its technology to manufacturers worldwide, accelerating the global adoption of enzymatic recycling for all kinds of plastic based products.

This is a transformational innovation that could finally meet the demand for sustainable packaging solutions worldwide, so that plastic never becomes waste. Right on!

Warning: may blow your mind!

Check out our top picks

Top Picks - olympic rings

Olympics going for gold with inventive ways to recycle

Unknown-2.jpeg

Mr. World Jack Heslewood wants to make a difference

Top Picks - gaming controller

Playing for the planet – now we’re jammin’

Incredible people, unbelievable stories

#differencemakers

We can all
change the world

We are #DifferenceMakers, a ground-breaking movement inspiring us all to make a change, no matter how big or small, by sharing remarkable stories of how engineering and technology are saving the world around us. Expect the unexpected – from super sustainable fashion and squeaky clean streaming, to apps that combat food waste and
tech to stop the ice caps melting.

We’re changing the way everyone sees engineering and technology, and proving they're a force to be reckoned with when it comes to saving our planet! If you care about making a difference and want to learn more, then join our movement today.

#DifferenceMakers was created to celebrate the 150th anniversary of The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) – one of the world’s largest engineering institutions and a diverse home for everyone in engineering and technology.