The project has two separate arms – the first will use AI to create enzymes that break down textile and plastic waste, the second will find ways to streamline methods for manufacturing the enzymes required.

Protein Evolution claims its technology is the first in the US to use enzymes as a catalyst to produce new polyethylene terephthalate (PET) using polyester textile waste. It says the PET produced is identical to virgin PET and is suitable for both textile and packaging applications.

The company is focusing on scaling its commercial capacity and working with a more diverse range of plastic waste.

The research is being led by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in association with the Joint BioEnergy Institute, Advanced Biofuels and the Bioproducts Process Development Unit.

The plan to turn textile and plastic waste into a fresh resource was previously revealed in 2022, but this latest development sees the company collaborating with ABF on scaling the technology.

The project is one of five decarbonisation schemes recently selected by ABF. It will work with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory on the new AI scheme for tackling waste.

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Protein Evolution’s director of bioprocess development Maren Wehrs says: “Our innovative process uses AI to design novel enzymes to transform various types of polyester waste back into the building blocks of new polyester. These partnerships provide access to cutting-edge research, infrastructure, and a wealth of domain expertise that will help us accelerate sustainable waste management and the global transition to a lower-carbon, circular economy.”

Protein Evolution chief technology officer Jay Konieczka adds: “At scale, our technology will divert millions of waste products from landfills and the environment, helping to reduce pollution, conserve natural resources, and contribute to a more sustainable and cleaner future.”

In December 2022, Protein Evolution announced an R&D collaboration with Stella McCartney in a move aimed at “trailblazing” the future of sustainable fashion.