Many enzymes promise to break down plastic. But what works in the lab often fails on a large scale. Now a new study by Gert Weber, HZB, Uwe Bornscheuer, University of Greifswald, and Alain Marty, Chief Scientific Officer of Carbios, shows how raising the bar for laboratory experiments could help identify promising approaches more quickly. The team demonstrated the new standards on four newly discovered enzymes.

PET accounts for 18% of the world’s plastic production, making it one of the most important plastics in terms of volume. The biotech company Carbios, for example, plans to build a plant in the northeast of France by 2025, that can recycle 50,000 metric tons of PET per year. They are interested in finding the best possible enzymes for their industrial setup and have realized that many results from laboratory research cannot be transferred to a larger scale.

The researchers have therefore developed a standardized PET hydrolysis protocol that defines reaction conditions relevant for hydrolysis on a larger scale. In particular, two PET materials were used, firstly a defined PET film and secondly PET granulate from waste bottles, as used by Carbios on a technical scale. They used these materials to test four recently discovered PET-decomposing enzymes: LCC-ICCG, FAST-PETase, HotPETase and PES-H1L92F/Q94Y.


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