After achieving a milestone in packaging recycling, Carbios’ unique biological recycling technology stands to fundamentally change the circularity of textiles.
This week, Carbios — a French company pioneering bio-industrial solutions to vastly extend the lifecycle of plastic and textile polymers — signed an agreement with On, Patagonia, PUMA and Salomon to develop solutions that will enhance the recyclability and circularity of their products.
An important element of the two-year deal will be accelerating the introduction of Carbios’ unique biorecycling technology, which constitutes a breakthrough for the textile industry. Carbios and the four companies will also research how products can be recycled; develop solutions to recycle worn polyester items — including sorting and dismantling technologies; and gather data on fiber-to-fiber recycling, as well as circularity models.
In the past few years, Carbios has partnered with numerous consumer goods brands to scale its innovative recycling technologies. In 2017, it joined forces with L’Oréal to bring its enzymatic recycling technology to market on an industrial scale. In 2019, Nestlé Waters, PepsiCo and Suntory Europe joined the effort; and in 2021, the consortium announced the successful production of the world’s first food-grade PET plastic bottles produced entirely from enzymatically recycled plastic.
Carbios’ biorecycling process constitutes a real technological breakthrough for the recycling of polyester (PET) fibers — which are widely used in apparel, footwear and sportswear — on their own or together with other fibers. PET polyester — which is used to make everyday consumer goods such as bottles, packaging and textiles — is the most important fiber for the textile industry with 52 metric tons (MT) produced per year, even surpassing cotton at 23 MT. Carbios’ biorecycling process uses an enzyme capable of selectively extracting the polyester, recovering it to recreate a virgin fiber — a game-changing technology that makes it possible to recover the PET polyester present in all textile waste that cannot be recycled using traditional technologies.
For the new textile initiative, the challenge the four brands share is that their ambitious circularity goals can only partially be met through conventional recycling technologies, which mostly target bottle-to-fiber recycling; future regulations will require more circularity in packaging and textiles. Yet the market consensus is that there will soon be a shortage of PET bottles, as they will be recycled into rPET for use in the food & beverage industry.
Today, most PET is produced from fossil resources, then used and discarded according to a conventionally wasteful linear model. By creating circular processes from used plastics and fibers, Carbios’ technology offers a sustainable and more responsible solution — and takes the textile industry closer to being able to seize the estimated trillion-dollar opportunity posed by its decarbonization.
“We are very pleased to partner with these prestigious brands. This Consortium model has proved to be very efficient, based on the success of the milestones previously achieved in packaging,” says Carbios CEO Emmanuel Ladent. “Our common goal is to contribute to reducing the environmental impact of the textile industry by offering an industrial solution to recycle polyester fibers and help our partners to meet their sustainable development goals.”
Adrianne Gilbride, Senior Sustainability Manager at On, noted: “On is committed to becoming fully circular before the end of the decade. Our partnership with Carbios and the other consortium members is an important step towards enabling the industry to adopt game-changing circular technologies at scale. Fiber-to-fiber recycling is a key building block in closing the loop within the textile and footwear industry.”
”At Salomon, we provide advanced sports solutions for all outdoor participants, from the elite to the enthusiasts. Therefore, it is a natural decision for us to join this consortium made up of clothing and footwear companies [and] Carbios to form a new organization for advancing textile recycling that will help create a sustainable future for all outdoor players,” says Olivier Mouzin, Footwear Sustainability Manager at Salomon. “Our goal in joining the consortium is to bring awareness to the end-of-life of textiles, with the ambition of establishing true circularity within the textile industry. The companies in the consortium aim to do this by discovering ways to recycle fibers from one product into another. Partnering with Carbios better enables us to accomplish this goal.”