CLERMONT-FERRAND – Carbios has succeeded in producing both 100% enzymatically recycled white PET fibre and bottle-grade PET from mixed coloured textile waste, using its C-Zyme process.
The significance of this achievement was underlined by Bruno Langlois, the French company’s business development and partnership director, at EDANA’s International Nonwovens Conference held in Lyon, France, on June 8-9.
“Fibre to fibre recycling is the only way to achieve true circularity and for the pledges fashion brands have already made to be realised,” he said. “Our technology has the ability to tap into vast new sources for recycling PET and is based on a very selective enzyme that will only depolymerize PET and not other materials in waste clothing, such as adhesives, dyes and other polymers.
“The process is low temperature and operates at atmospheric pressure with no solvents. The PET is extracted and separated and the recovered monomers are virgin quality.”
Prior to the C-Zyme process, the waste textiles are shredded and densified to reduce crystallinity and increase the surface area. C-Zyme can then degrade 98% of such a mass in 16 hours.
Langlois pointed out that around 90 million tons of PET is produced each year, with around 27 millions tons going into packaging and the remainder used to make fibres.
Currently, only 13% of textile waste is recycled, and mainly into lower quality applications such as nonwoven padding, insulation or wipes.
Not surprisingly, things are moving fast for the company, whose demonstration plant has been operational since September 2021. Since validating the C-Zyme process, it has subsequently partnered with Indorama Ventures to build an enzymatic PET bio-recycling production plant in Longlaville, Meurthe-et-Moselle, France, with a processing capacity of around 50,000 tons of post-consumer PET waste per year by 2025 – the equivalent to 2 billion PET bottles.
From January 1st 2025, the separate collection of textile waste, which is already in place in some countries, will be mandatory for all EU Member States and the Carbios process will be one of the solutions that will enable this waste to be sustainably recovered and included in a true circular economy model.
“C-Zyme means that virtually all PET that goes onto the market now has the potential to be recycled,” Langlois said. “We are targeting 90-95% recovery of polymers from the textile waste material.”