The problem with traditional recycling is that you degrade the material each time you do it. That’s why a France-based startup called Carbios is taking an entirely new approach.

Using a bioreactor, the startup is taking pulverized PET plastic waste—the kind of plastic found in drink bottles and polyester clothing—and mixing it with water and enzymes, which are then heated up and churned. In a matter of hours, the enzymes decompose the plastic into the material’s basic building blocks, called monomers, which can then be separated, purified, and used to make new plastic that’s identical to virgin material. The technology is especially cool because it can bring new value to colored bottles, which can’t be recycled into transparent plastic because current methods can’t remove the dye.

By working with different types of waste, the company believes that it can help increase the volume of…
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