How biorecycling can turn plastics back into a raw resource

  • Only 9% of the world’s plastic waste is recycled, but plastics have a wide range of applications, from packaging to cars and textiles.
  • Integrating plastics into the circular economy will be key to global efforts to tackle climate change.
  • Carbios has developed a biorecycling plant for PET plastics which makes it possible to recycle the material into raw material.

At the recent meeting in Davos, the world’s most powerful economic and political leaders gathered again in the famous Swiss resort town to discuss the planet’s most pressing future issues. In addition to economic issues, the agenda of the World Economic Forum (WEF) has particularly focused on finding solutions to combat climate change.

The theme is particularly close to my heart, because the warning signs of the impact of global warming are multiplying. This is supported by the most recent Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changewhich said that we had only three years left to act if we wanted to preserve a livable world.

World’s first PET plastics biorecycling plant

To Carbios, we are driven by the belief that there are innovative solutions to the climate crisis. We have been working alone for nearly 10 years, and they are now becoming a reality with the development of the world’s first PET bio-recycling plant.

Our innovations make it possible to biologically recycle polymers based on polyethylene terephthalate (PET) almost infinitely, thanks to the disruptive processes developed by our scientists.

From now on, plastic waste can become a raw material and be reused endlessly, with the same quality. Thanks to Carbios, plastics can enter a circular economy.

Another innovation allows polylactic acid (PLA), which is a bio-based plastic, to be fully biodegraded in the compost without leaving any residue or toxicity. This means that waste can now be used as a valuable raw resource thanks to our two complementary technologies. The industry is becoming circular; it becomes a reality.

The future of plastic circularity will be biological. This will significantly reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

The plastics industry plays a key role in the fight against climate change

The plastics industry appears to be a strategic player in the fight against climate change, with only 9% of global plastic waste is recycled. According to expertsplastics – which represent about 4% of oil consumption – have a wide variety of applications and are used in particular in packaging, construction, automobiles, electrical and electronic appliances and textiles.

It is a complex industry, characterized by a wide variety of resins or polymers. In addition to PET, there are also polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and each of these resins requires a specific recycling channel.

The plastic waste generated worldwide is estimated at 353 million tons. However, only a third of this deposit is collected for recycling.

Ultimately, between 250,000 and 300,000 tons are finally reincorporated into the production cycle in France, which represents only 6% of the country’s plastics production.

The most virtuous sectors are PET packaging, mainly plastic bottles, and other sectors are being organized. According to ADEME, energy recovery from waste represents the third main source renewable electricity production, after hydropower and wind power.

In 2018, energy produced from waste saved 1.6 billion liters of fuel oil in France. The recycling and recovery of materials in the broad sense play an essential role in combating the environmental impacts linked to the production and disposal of waste and for the sustainable management of natural resources.

Our planet is straining under the weight of a world population of almost 8 billion people.

The World Economic Forum’s Center for Nature and Climate accelerates action on climate change and environmental sustainability, food systems, circular economy and value chains, and the future of international development.

  • Through the Global Plastic Action Partnership, we bring together government, business and civil society to shape a more sustainable world through the eradication of plastic pollution.
  • The center champions nature-based solutions. Global companies work together across the initiative to support 1 trillion trees by 2030. As of September 2021, over 30 companies have pledged to conserve, restore and grow over 3.6 billion trees in over 60 countries.
  • Through a partnership with US Presidential Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry and more than 30 global companies, the Forum encourages companies to join the Early Mover Coalition and invest in innovative green technologies so they are available for a massive scale-up by 2030 to enable net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest.
  • The center also brings together leaders to engage in a circular economy approach. Globally, the Scale360° initiative will reduce the environmental impact of value chains in the fashion, food, plastics and electronics industries – an important step in making the opportunity for 4.5 trillion dollar circular economy a reality. The African Circular Economy Alliance funds circular economy entrepreneurs and activities in countries like Rwanda, Nigeria and South Africa. In China, the Forum’s Circular Electronics in China project is helping companies reduce and recycle 50% of e-waste by 2025.
  • The Forum also offers crowdsourcing solutions to the climate crisis through its open innovation platform, UpLink. Since 2020, this digital space has hosted more than 40,000 users working on more than 30 challenges, including reducing ocean plastic pollution, stepping up efforts to conserve, restore and grow 1 trillion trees, and innovating in the production and processing of aquatic foods.

Contact us for more information on how to get involved.

Both also limit greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption related to industrial production. Thus, composting, methanisation, recycling of solid recovered fuels (SRC) – non-hazardous waste – are all alternatives to fossil fuels. Our modern societies understand that our waste is valuable.

As a result, it appears that our biorecycling and biodegradation methods allow us to recover plastic waste – colored, opaque, food trays, as well as textiles – which otherwise have little or no value.

It is now conceivable to minimize our dependence on hydrocarbons – a huge environmental, strategic and geopolitical stake for the future – by allowing plastic waste to become a valuable new raw resource.

PET microparticles ready for recycling.

Picture: Carbios

This revolutionary innovation also responds to strong demand from consumers, public authorities and manufacturers who have made ambitious commitments in terms of sustainable development and eco-design of their packaging. Universal awareness of global warming is changing attitudes and necessitating similar changes in actions.

Today, our biorecycling technology is internationally recognized, hailed in April 2020 by the scientific community through a cover publication in the prestigious journal, Nature. Carbios also obtained the ‘Efficient Solution’ label from the Solar Impulse Foundation.

The World Economic Forum has created a series of initiatives to promote circularity.

1. Scale360° Playbook was designed to build sustainable ecosystems for the circular economy and help solutions scale.

Scale360° Playbook Journey

Image: Scale360° playbook

Its unique hub-based approach – launched in September – is designed to prioritize circular innovation while fostering communities that allow innovators around the world to share ideas and solutions. Emerging innovators around the world can connect and work ideas and solutions together across the Uplinkthe Forum’s open innovation platform.

Find out how the Scale360° Playbook can drive circular innovation in your community.

2. A new Circular Cars Initiative (CCI) embodies the ambition of a more circular automotive industry. It represents a coalition of more than 60 car manufacturers, suppliers, research institutes, NGOs and international organizations committed to realizing this short-term ambition.

CCI recently released a new series of circularity roadmaps, developed in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), McKinsey & Co. and Accenture Strategy. These reports explain the specificities of this new circular transition.

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3. The World Economic Forum’s Accelerating Digital Traceability for Sustainable Production initiative brings together manufacturers, suppliers, consumers and regulators to jointly establish solutions and provide a supporting ecosystem to increase supply chain visibility and accelerating sustainability and circularity in the manufacturing and production sectors.

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With Carbios’ solution, we have finally found a biological way to reuse plastic waste. Now the use of plastic bottles or plastic food packaging need not be a problem anymore, as they can fit into the circular economy.

More than ever, the circular economy must be set up as a model. All decision-makers in this world must be fully aware of this. It will take courage, imagination and above all innovation to get out of the climate rut. But as long as we encourage research and create a favorable environment for companies like Carbios, we will rise to the challenge.


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