Reduce the environmental impact of plastics with biosolutions

 

It's complicated

We love plastic because of its versatility. It’s lightweight, hygienic and durable, which means it can be used for a multitude of purposes. For example, it’s ideal as food packaging to protect our food and beverages so they can be transported more easily and stay fresher for longer.

But the properties that make this possible are also part of the reason why we are falling out of love with plastic. Its durability makes it difficult to break down and reuse. In fact, of the seven billion tonnes of plastic ever created, less than 10% has been recycled1. Instead plastic waste ends up as landfill, in our oceans or in the food chain as microplastics.

A problem we cannot afford to ignore

At the current rate, the consumption of global plastics is projected to triple by 2060 according to the OECD2. According to the UNEP, textiles accounted for 11% of total plastic waste, 39 million metrics tonnes in 20193. To reduce plastic pollution, we have to rethink the way we produce, use and recycle plastic.

This is where biosolutions come in.

Why plastic is not just plastic

Creating more environmentally-friendly plastic is complicated by the many different types of plastic in use with different properties, composition and levels of recyclability.

Currently biosolutions exist to create more sustainable plastics. Working with partners, we have created biosolutions that reduce the need for virgin plastics created from fossil-fuel based fedstocs and which can cut plastic pollution.

Carbios logo

Carbios has developed two unique biotechnologies to rethink the life cycle of plastic and textiles

Products made of PET

PET – Polyethylene terephthalate

Often used in water bottles, food packaging and textiles.

PET market value: 2022 USD 44.30 billion (Fortune Business Insights).

compostable bag in compost bucket on the balcony of an apartment

PLA – Polylactic acid

Often used in plastic bottles, compostable bags and disposable tableware.

PLA market value: 2020 USD 698,200.9 thousand (Fortune Business Insights).

 

What if we could close the loop of PET plastic?

 

Reuse PET without
compromising quality

Today, PET plastic can only be mechanically recycled a limited number of times before its quality is compromised. At this point, you need to add virgin plastic to compensate. This both increases demand for plastics and also increases waste.

Our business partner Carbios has developed a revolutionary enzymatic biosolution that can break down PET waste of all types (bottles, trays, fibers, etc) into monomers, the original building blocks of PET.

These monomers are then reassembled by PET producers to create recycled PET which has the same quality as virgin fossil-based plastic. This means that Carbios recycled PET can be used for all kinds of applications and for many cycles.

This lets you maintain the value of your PET plastic and creates a sustainable and circular solution for the vast majority of PET waste, whilst also cutting down carbon emissions by half compared with production of fossil-based plastic.

Allowing plastic waste to be regenerated as new virgin plastic cuts down on waste, reduces CO2 emissions, and represents an important step towards the circular economy we so greatly need.

100% compostable 
PLA plastics

Imagine a food container, such as a tray, that is food grade, high performing and durable – and which can be disposed of with your food waste.

That’s now possible thanks to a new PLA material containing enzymes developed by our partner Carbolice. Under the right composting conditions, this new enzymatic PLA fully degrades leaving no toxins or microplastics behind.

This means you can treat PLA packaging as food waste that can be composted either at home or industrially, essentially removing another plastic source from the plastic waste stream.

Together we can do more

These two unique biotechnologies were discovered and industrialized by Carbios, a French biotech company striving to enable a truly circular economy for plastic​.

Novozymes is currently scaling up production of Carbios’ patented PET-degrading enzymes. At the same time, the Carbios team is finalizing the design for a full-scale PET recycling facility to be commissioned in 2025 in France. When completed, this facility will be the world’s first biological recycling facility processing 50,000 tons of PET waste per year. That’s the equivalent of two billion PET bottles.

And biosolutions can do more

Biobased plastics

Instead of using petrochemical oil, biosolutions can be used to produce plastics made from different kinds of biomass. This type of biobased plastic enables a more circular production process compared to fossil feedstock-based plastics. Novozymes has a range of offerings for biorefining of lignocellulose, organic waste or starch into fermentable sugars.

Biodegradable plastics

You can also use biosolutions to biodegrade plastics, such as PBAT, PBS and PLA, for a more environmentally-friendly end-of-life or recycling.

Cultivated field with plastic mulch film

More action is needed

The Novozymes Carbios partnership is a great example of innovative technology developed and implemented by different players across the plastic value chain.

However, if we are to overcome plastic waste on a global scale, more needs to be done by stakeholders from across the plastic value chain, including consumers, manufacturers, brands, authorities, and governments.

Incentivize the use of biologically recycled PET (rPET)

To discourage landfill and plastic incineration, many countries have already imposed a ban on single-use plastics. In 2025 an ambitious new EU regulation comes into force to ensure that 50% of all plastic packaging is reused. The EU also plans to ban the export of plastic waste.

Plastic bottles biologically PET

Encourage biobased plastics (PLA) for food-grade packaging

Packaging represents the biggest share of the global plastic market. To accelerate the use of biobased instead of fossil-based plastics and reduce the environmental impact of packaging, enzymes should be classified as safe ingredients. Furthermore, the use of biodegradable plastic should also be encouraged in situations where recycling is not an option. Biobased and biodegradable PLA plastics should be approved for food grade use and as compostable packaging.

As enzymes are both biobased and biodegradable, their value for the European economy should be recognized by the European Commission.

Food packaging

Ensure clear labelling on plastics

Using a clear labelling system on consumer goods with information on recycling would raise awareness and remove uncertainty around what to do with plastic waste. The origins of packaging should also be indicated to help consumers make informed purchasing choices and reduce reliance on fossil feedstocks.

Consumer knows what to do with the plastic because of clear labelling

Investment in new
recycling facilities

Once the biological recycling process has been fully tested, there needs to be funding and large-scale investments in recycling plants like the one planned by Carbios to open in 2025 in Longlaville, France.

Together, we must rethink the entire value chain, from sourcing, to packaging design, collection points, sorting, recycling, and consumer habits. As it becomes easier to keep plastics in the value stream and out of the trash, we have a responsibility to make this a reality everywhere.

Recycling facility

Talk to us about using biosolutions to get closer to a more circular plastic economy.

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See our biosolutions for:

Farmer harvesting

Advanced biorefining

Biorefineries transform bio-feedstocks such as crops, waste and other organic material into fuel, power, heat, and feed. These plant powerhouses play a key role in the pursuit of a climate-neutral society.

Capturing emissions

Capture carbon with biosolutions

Carbon capture is widely considered to be the only practical way to decarbonize industry. Biotechnology can make the process more affordable and sustainable.

woman on a hike standing and drinking coffee

Accelerate towards climate-neutrality

Every tonne of CO2 saved accelerates the journey to climate-neutrality. Our biosolutions are helping across industries, in agriculture and in consumers' homes.