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Waste Not
Novozymes, VTT Crafting Next-Gen Solutions to Plastic Waste (and More)

Promising technologies from Finland, France could bring waste-free future closer to reality.

Novozymes, Carbios developing first enzyme-based solution for end-of-life plastics

Carbios — a French sustainable chemistry company specializing in technologies enabling recovery of plastic waste and the production of bio-polymers — has embarked on a joint development agreement between itself, leading enzymes producer Novozymes, and Carbios subsidiary Carbiolice.

Under the terms of this multi-year agreement, Novozymes will upscale and produce Carbios’ proprietary enzymes — which will produce and commercialize a new generation of products enabling single-use plastics to be fully biodegradable in any environmental condition — and become the long-term exclusive supplier of plastics degrading enzymes to Carbiolice. According to Carbios, the collaboration is an industry first in the field of bioplastics that aims to catalyze the production of single-use plastics that are environmentally friendly and cost competitive.

“We are excited to be part of this joint collaboration where we work together on finding biological solutions to answer one of the biggest challenges of our time,” said Jens Kolind, VP of Technical Industries at Novozymes.

The range of commercial applications in target are single-use plastics for grocery and retail bags, rigid and flexible packaging, disposable tableware and agricultural mulch films. With this technology, Carbiolice will have the opportunity to corner the market by addressing the major environmental concern with single-use plastics, and preventing their detrimental effects on the environment.

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Image credit: Carbios

Together, the three companies aim to enable the biodegradation of single-use plastics in an eco-friendly manner that has yet to be achieved.** **

"The market of single-use plastics raises major environmental concerns, and our sustainable and inventive approach is now opening huge opportunities to fulfill industrial and consumer demand while fighting the threat of plastic pollution,” said Carbios CEO Jean-Claude Lumaret. “We are proud of this partnership with the world leading enzymes producer Novozymes, that gives us the strength to launch at large-scale the most advanced eco-friendly solution for the biodegradation of plastics.” 

VTT develops novel device for processing problematic organic, plastic and textile waste

Image credit: VTT

Meanwhile, VTT — the Technical Research Centre of Finland — which last year announced it will pilot PlastBug, a mobile container unit containing plastic-eating microbes to remove plastic waste from ocean areas and convert it into material for other uses, says that its new cylindrical extruder could revolutionize the processing of recyclable materials.

The extruder can be used, for example, to turn problematic materials such as textiles, plastics and even food waste into pellets. VTT says the first prototype has already exceeded the industrial steering group’s expectations during initial testing, and they are looking for a partner to commercialize the technology.

VTT’s research scientists have been testing the prototype’s performance with items such as pieces of plastic film, mixed plastic waste, various textiles and bread. In addition to recycling, the scientists say the device has been used to produce long fiber composites, and it can also be utilized in food and feed processing.

An extruder is a device capable of melting, mixing and extruding paste through a shaped nozzle; the plastics industry uses extruders to make, for example, pipes and profiles, and they also have various applications in the food and feed industry. Behind the idea for this extruder is VTT Research Scientist Hannu Minkkinen, who discovered that materials can rotate around the device’s hollow cylinder. The extruder was designed and the prototype built with funding from Business Finland’s and VTT’s funding instrument for commercialization of research results.

“Commercialising the device would create completely new possibilities, both in terms of waste processing and novel material combinations,” explains VTT’s Principal Scientist Tomi Erho.

Unique design, unique potential

The diameter of the extruder screw determines the size of the feed throat and also the kinds of materials that the device is capable of processing. The first prototype has a screw diameter of 30 cm instead of the 3-4 cm typically found in conventional devices of the same output.

The large diameter combined with a shallow screw channel makes it possible to mix different components of problematic, porous and lightweight materials and to make the mixed mass compatible with the next stage of the production process.

According to VTT, other benefit of the device include its simple design, which makes it cheaper to make than traditional mixing twin-screw extruders; its compactness; its capacity for accurate temperature control combined with efficient mixing; and Long fibres can be processed without cutting them, which is useful when processing blended textiles.

“Many textile-recycling processes are only suitable for products containing homogeneous fibers. However, textiles are often made of a mix of fibers, and many products are comprised of different layers. The new extruder opens up a revolutionary opportunity to recycle mixed textiles and materials without having to separate fibers or components,” explains VTT Senior Scientist Pirjo Heikkilä. “We have successfully tested the device, for example, for recycling pillows without removing the filling in the course of a project called Telaketju, with funding from Business Finland.”