Enzyme returns textile waste to original monomers

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In France, CARBIOS has demonstrated an enzymatic depolymerization process for polyester terephthalate polyester fibers from textile waste. The process broke down the material into its original monomers: terephthalic acid and monoethylene glycol.

CARBIOS says that polyester accounts for half of the overall fiber market. “Each year, 43 million tons of PET is produced for the fiber market, compared to 15 million tons dedicated to the production of plastic bottles,” the company says.

The company says the process will enable the recycling industry to upcycle post-consumer PET polyester fabrics and give the textile industry recycled PET fibers to replace those produced via fossil fuels. Most textile waste is currently sent to landfills or incinerated. To date, efforts to recycle textile fibers have resulted in lower-quality material.

“Turning unwanted polyester textiles into high quality raw materials for new products using CARBIOS enzymatic technology is an opportunity for completely changing textile manufacturing and trade in Europe and beyond,” says Alain MARTY, Chief Scientific Officer of CARBIOS. “From a sustainable perspective, our approach will significantly improve the overall life cycle impact of textile products.”

The company had previously demonstrated the process on PET plastics, returning the material to virgin PET.