French bioplastics firm Carbios has developed a new enzymatic technology process that enables polyester fabrics to be turned back into virgin state raw materials for use in the manufacture of new products.

The firm has already applied its enzymatic depolymerisation process to PET plastics, and now says it has depolymerised 100% PET textile waste fibres into their original monomers: PTA (terephthalic acid) and MEG (mono ethylene glycol).

Currently, the recycling of textile fibres results in a material of lower quality than the original. But Carbios says its process produces a high quality virgin PET – as well as reducing the use of fossil resources in the recycling process.

Polyester is today the single-largest-volume fibre produced globally, taking about a 50% share of the overall fibre market. The dominant type of polyester is polyethylene terephthalate, most commonly known as PET.

Each year, 43m tonnes of PET are produced for the fibre market, compared to 15m tonnes dedicated to the production of plastic bottles.

The firm says its goals, if successful, will help reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills and cut the carbon footprint.

"Turning unwanted polyester textiles into high quality raw materials for new products using Carbios enzymatic technology is an opportunity for completely changing textile manufacturing and trade in Europe and beyond," says Alain Marty, chief scientific officer at Carbios. "From a sustainable perspective, our approach will significantly improve the overall life cycle impact of textile products."