CJ Cheil Jedang works with university researchers to commercialize enzymes for biological plastic recycling


[Courtesy of CJ Cheil Jedang]

SEOUL — In an effort to upgrade biological recycling technologies that can replace mechanical recycling, CJ Cheil Jedang, a key subsidiary of South Korean food and entertainment conglomerate CJ Group, will work with a national university research team to develop and commercialize high-efficiency enzymes that biologically break down plastics.

CJ CheilJedang said he signed a joint research contract with Kyungpook National University to commercialize enzymes that biologically break down polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastics. They would also develop processes for breaking down plastic and purifying raw materials.

Mechanical recycling is widely used to recover plastic waste by sorting, washing, drying, grinding, regranulation and compounding without modifying the chemical structure of the raw materials. The method is inexpensive, but the quality of the recycled materials is poor. Chemical recycling produces substances, but it is not a perfect alternative to solve the accumulation of plastic waste.

CJ CheilJedang promotes the biological recycling of plastic which consumes relatively little energy. The company’s microbial fermentation technology and development infrastructure will be combined with Kyungpook National University’s research know-how in the field of plastic degradation enzymes to create synergies.

“This collaboration is a significant first step in shifting the plastic recycling paradigm in a greener and more sustainable direction,” CJ CheilJedang CEO Hwang Yun-il said in a June 16 statement.

CJ Cheil Jedang has previously developed polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), which are produced by bacteria during the fermentation process of sugars or lipids, including fats, oils and waxes, to store carbon and energy, and can be used with other monomers to create different types of bioplastics that break down over time. PHAs are 100% biodegradable even in seawater.

In April 2021, CJ Cheil Jedang partnered with SKC, a manufacturer of polyester films and chemical materials, to produce a flexible and durable bioplastic material that is suitable for food packaging by using the characteristics of polylactic acid (PLA) and PHAs. PLA is a biodegradable thermoplastic polyester obtained by the synthesis of lactic acid, which can be produced from renewable resources.

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