New Study Develops Chemo-enzymatic Treatment to Recover PET Building Blocks

The textile industry covers many different types of fibres, 54% of which is represented by synthetic materials. Research shows that the consumption of synthetic fibres increased by 77% during the period 2000-2012 and that polyesters are the most used materials in the textile industry. Among these, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is one of the most established. PET is a semi-crystalline thermoplastic polymer which shows excellent tensile strength, chemical resistance and high thermal stability. However, the amount of PET waste is increasing dramatically and it is vital to create an efficient and green recycling process.

In the study ‘Synergistic chemo-enzymatic hydrolysis of poly(ethylene terephthalate) from textile waste’ led by BOKU (Universität für Bodenkultur Wien), Quartinello et al. developed a chemo-enzymatic treatment to recover PET building blocks, namely terephthalic acid (TA) and ethylene glycol, in order to synthesise fresh PET from these recovered materials. This treatment avoids the introduction of contaminants (such as dyes) which would reduce the quality of the polymer itself over the recycling cycles. The chemical pre-treatment was performed in an environmentally-friendly way under neutral conditions and led to depolymerisation of the polyester-composed waste textiles yielding about 85% TA. The enzymatic hydrolysis performed in a second reaction step lead to further hydrolysis of the remaining oligomers yielding TA with a purity of 97%. 

Read the full paper at  BOKU's website


eu funding

RESYNTEX received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement 641942.