French green chemistry company CARBIOS has announced the successful development of a new ‘enzyme-based technology for rendering polyactic acid (PLA) biodegradable at ambient temperatures’.

PLA is purportedly the most widely used bio-sourced plastic at the industrial level with demand expected to grow at annual rate of between 10 per cent and 28 per cent through 2018. Due to its capacity as a substitute for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polystyrene, production ‘could reach one million tonnes by 2025’, according to the company’s predictions.

According to CARBIOS, PLA has historically only been compostable ‘under industrial conditions, in confined environments that require temperatures above 50 degrees centigrade, and high levels of humidity’.

The company claims that by embedding an enzyme into the PLA at the time of production, they have successfully created a form of the plastic that can be composted without the need for specialist equipment or conditions.

The enzyme utilised in the production process breaks down the plastic into lactic acid, a PLA monomer and metabolite that can be naturally assimilated by all living organisms.

CARBIOS claims that the new material has biomedical applications and is suitable for creating biodegradable food packaging and textiles. Now that the company has successfully tested the technology, it plans to produce the fist commercial objects in PLA including food packaging that will be fully biodegradable under ambient conditions.

Speaking of the innovation, Jean-Claude Lumaret, CEO of CARBIOS said: “We have proven that CARBIOS’ bio-processes are no longer a utopia to be reached, but are now are an actual reality.  A decisive milestone has been reached with PLA.  We are eager to continue, along with our academic partners to further develop our biodegradation and bio-recycling processes, targeting industrial applications that address the growing regulatory and societal requirements and constraints affecting the end-of-life of plastics.”

Find out more about CARBIOS.