Spanish firm Innovative Film Solutions has developed a technique that uses enzymes to break down plastic film and allows for both composting and recycling of the film.
The REBICOM (REcyclable, BIodegradable and COMpostable film) project has been funded by the European Union Horizon 2020 programme.
Innovative Film Solutions has led the project that developed a new range of plastic films that contain enzymatic technology that accelerates the breakdown of the plastic to allow them to be recyclable, biodegradable or compostable.
The researchers encapsulated certain enzyme complexes in a polyolefin matrix to obtain a masterbatch that was incorporated into the formulation of plastic films during the production process.
After this, the technology was proved at scale, producing prototype films that meet the EN 13432 standard as well as European legislation for food contact materials. Potentially, these new films can be biodegradable, compostable or recycled using current plastic recycling technologies.
REBICOM coordinator Joaquín Buendía said: “Plastics take hundreds if not thousands of years to degrade, breaking down into ever-smaller pieces. Adding certain compounds to plastics could act as a culture for microorganisms. The enzymes secreted by organisms initiate material depolymerisation, feed on carbon bonds, thereby speeding up biodegradation.
“The plastic films carry within an inactive load that is 100% recyclable. When these plastic films end up in the environment in contact with microorganisms, their load triggers an enzymatic reaction that converts them into biodegradable in a relatively short period of time, given the proper temperature and humidity levels.”