EUROPE – Major food beverage manufacturers Nestlé, PepsiCo and Suntory have partnered with French biochemistry company Carbios to launch the world’s first food-grade enzymatically recycled PET plastic bottle.

According to a joint statement, sample bottles for products including Perrier, Pepsi Max, and Orangina have already been produced using Carbios’ enzymatic recycling process.

According to Carbios, the successful launch of the bottles is the culmination of nearly ten years of research focusing on development of a new process to supercharge enzymes that naturally occur in compost heaps and normally break down leaf membranes.

Carbios says it has now ‘fine-tuned’ the technology and optimised the enzyme to break down any kind of plastic (regardless of colour or complexity) into its individual chemical components – allowing the creation of new high-quality, food-grade PET packaging.

The firm says 97% of plastic can be broken down in 16 hours, greatly reducing the impact of the plastics on the environment.

Since 1950 to 2018, about 6.3 billion tonnes of plastics have been produced worldwide, 9% and 12% of which have been recycled and incinerated, respectively.

An estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic is yearly released into the ocean, leading to degradation of marine habitat which eventually affects aquatic organisms.

Long term usage and exposure of plastics and plastic products to high temperature can lead to leaching of toxic chemical constituents into food, drinks and water.

Increased consumer awareness about the impact of plastics on the environment has influenced their purchasing decisions, forcing manufacturers to seek alternatives.

To accelerate adoption of the technology globally, Carbios says it will license its technology to PET manufacturers worldwide.

Jean Claude Lumaret, CEO of Carbios, said: “In a world first, we have created food-grade clear bottles from enzymatically recycled coloured and complex plastic with identical properties to virgin PET, and in partnership with the consortium, we have proved the viability of the technology with the world’s leading brands.”

The industrial chemistry firm will also break ground on a demonstration plant in September, before launching a 40,000 tonnes capacity industrial facility by 2025.

 “Bottle to bottle recycling is an incredibly sustainable and resource efficient way to manage PET plastics to ensure they don’t end up as waste and today’s announcement will ensure a valuable material like plastic stays in circulation and out of the environment, which is ultimately what we’re striving for,” said Michelle Norman, director of external affairs and sustainability, Suntory Beverage and Food Great Britain & Ireland.

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