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The end of life of plastics,
a major environmental challenge


Today's plastics combine remarkable technical properties (lightness, durability, waterproofing, flexibility or rigidity, etc.) with low cost. Mostly derived from petrochemicals, these versatile materials are currently present in all segments of our lives (packaging, textiles, buildings, transport, agriculture, the medical field...) and have been a source of progress. However, the environmental consequences induced by several decades of intensive exploitation have led to a collective awareness of the need to produce and consume differently in order to guarantee future generations a sustainable and environmentally friendly society.

Major issues

  • The wide use of these polymers and the fact that they often exist in mixtures makes them difficult to recycle. Today, plastic is mostly recycled by thermomechanical process. This process requires a drastic sorting upstream and does not allow to treat all the waste, and leads to a loss of properties; It is thus in reality an open loop, which does not solve the ultimate end of life of the waste.

  • Different bioremediation solutions considered: biological recycling process or innovative biodegradable materials.


The shocking figures of plastic pollution


In 2017, 438 Mt of plastics were produced, broken down into:
438 Thousands of tons
- Resins
348 Mt
- Fibers
62 Mt
- Additives
27 Mt
Cumulative total between 1950 and 2017
9.2 billion tons

(or the mass of 900,000 Eiffel Towers or 88 million blue whales)

In Europe in 2018 out of the 61.8 Mt of plastics produced per year, just over half is collected (29.1 Mt) and about 33% recycled (i.e. 15% in total, 9.4Mt).
In 2019, less than 1% of plastics are bioplastics (biosourced and/or biodegradable) or 1.2Mt of biodegradable plastics.

TBI, involved in the plastic challenge

Projects to produce plastics by biological means

Projects to depolymerize plastics by biological means

Succes Story

Development of an efficient enzyme for PET depolymerization by enzymatic engineering

The team CIMES, supported by the technology platform PICT-ICEO, has been working with Carbios for over 10 years.

  • Development of an efficient enzyme for PET depolymerization by enzymatic engineering
  • Thanaplast Project 2012-2017 (BPI France) and Circular Economy PET Project 2018-2021 (Ademe);
  • More than 10 patents filed
  • An article in Nature: Tournier, V. et al. An engineered PET depolymerase to break down and recycle plastic bottles. Nature 580, 216–219 (2020).
Journal NATURE

Expertise and skills

PoPlaB Cooperative Laboratory

Polymers, plastics and biotechnologies) between TBI and Carbios

déchet textile

Validated technology for the recycling of textile waste

Technology used to manufacture the first food-grade bottles and white fiber in 100% enzymatically recycled PET.
> read the press release

Carbiolice company

Commercializes the enzyme jointly developed by Carbios and TBI.
> Read more