Breakthrough as enzymes convert plastic waste into new bottles

Lucozade Ribena Suntory Factory Unveiling 16

Ribena, Lucozade Energy and Lucozade Sport, which are manufactured in the Forest of Dean, are on track to be the first UK brands to use 100% sustainable plastic after a major breakthrough in enzymatic recycling, developed by French company Carbios, is published in a peer-reviewed paper in Nature scientific journal.

Carbios, a company pioneering new bio-industrial solutions to reinvent the lifecycle of plastic and textile polymers, has published its article in the prestigious scientific journal Nature, entitled “An engineered PET-depolymerase to break down and recycle plastic bottles”. The article is co-authored by scientists at Carbios and at the Company’s renowned academic partner, the Toulouse Biotechnology Institute (TBI)[1].

The technology has the backing of a consortium of industry heavyweights, including Lucozade Ribena Suntory parent company Suntory Beverage and Food Europe, and vastly improves the recycling of PET plastic waste.

The article describes the development of a novel enzyme, which can biologically depolymerize all polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic waste, followed by an extremely efficient recycling into new bottles. PET is the most common thermoplastic polymer and is used to manufacture bottles, polyester clothing fibres, food containers, and various thermoformed packaging and components.

Carbios’ recycling process, the first of its kind, initiates a real transition to a circular economy and can better prevent plastic pollution from harming our oceans and planet. This innovative technology also paves the way for recycling PET fibres, another major challenge in guaranteeing a clean and protected environment for future generations.

Prof. Alain Marty, Carbios’ Chief Scientific Officer and co-author of the Nature article says: “I am very proud that Nature, one of the most highly respected scientific journals in the world, has validated the quality of the research led by Carbios and TBI laboratory scientists in developing a PET recycling enzyme and a revolutionary process. The results obtained confirm the industrial and commercial potential of the Company’s proprietary process, which will be tested in 2021 in our demonstration plant in the heart of the French Chemical Valley, near Lyon.” 

Roberto Vanin, Chief R&D Officer at Suntory Beverage and Food Europe, said: “Hitting our goal of 100 per cent sustainable plastic bottles within a decade requires us to think differently, which is why we’ve invested in the Carbios consortium. Innovative ideas such as enzymatic recycling can help reinvent the lifecycle of plastic waste, turning post-consumer plastic waste back into a resource.

“In 2007, Ribena became the first soft-drinks brand to use 100% recycled plastic. Sadly much waste plastic today still goes unsorted and ends up in landfill; this exciting technology offers a way of avoiding mixed, coloured or food-waste contaminated plastic being lost. We’re excited to be at the forefront of worldwide efforts to enhance the recyclability of PET and bring a fully circular economy for plastic closer to reality.”