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Enzymes for textile recycling

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hanging shirts of various colors - Credit: Mikes-Photography/

Credit: Mikes-Photography/

Training enzymes to break down all the plastic in old clothes, yielding high-quality raw materials to recycle into brand new clothes.

About the Technology

We are on a mission to train enzymes to recycle all the plastic in textile waste. Of 359M tons of plastic generated annually, 90%+ goes unrecycled. Existing recycling methods are limited to well-sorted, pure streams of single plastic types, and the resulting recycled material has downgraded performance. Textiles are especially incompatible with current recycling methods due to their physically complex, highly multi-material nature. This means that less than 15% of all textile waste is recycled, with less than 1% going back into textiles. Over the last year we have developed a high-throughput screening platform that allows us to rapidly discover enzymes with robust activity towards synthetic fibers in textiles. Our approach leverages biology’s specificity and tunability, which allow us to break down plastic substrates even when other materials are present, yielding products that can be readily recycled into brand-new clothing. Support from the Stanford University HIT Fund will be instrumental in bringing our enzymatic recycling process to commercial pilot readiness.

Team Members

Nikita Khlystov, Ph.D.
Nikita Khlystov, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Research Fellow​​​​​
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Prof. Jennifer R. Cochran, Ph.D.
Prof. Jennifer R. Cochran, Ph.D.
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Related Web Links

Plastics Biorecycling at the Cochran Lab (Inventor's website)