Building a future without plastic waste
For decades, the world has been grappling with a daunting problem - plastic waste. Despite various attempts to tackle the issue, including recycling technologies, plastic waste continues to pile up in landfills and incinerators, posing a grave threat to the environment. This is largely due to the complexity of plastic as a material, which has hindered the development of effective solutions to address the problem.
However, in 2016, a glimmer of hope emerged when scientists discovered bacteria in a Japanese recycling plant that could naturally break down plastic. This breakthrough discovery has unlocked the potential to engineer specific types of enzymes that can break down plastic material into its original components, paving the way for a circular system that could ultimately help solve the world's plastic crisis. With this technology, there is a renewed sense of optimism that we can effectively manage plastic waste and create a sustainable future for our planet.
Throughout history, the production of virgin (new) plastic has been achieved by cracking oil, which breaks down large hydrocarbon molecules into smaller ones. The raw materials for plastic are then derived from the smaller hydrocarbon molecules, which are then used to create the polymers that form plastic. However, projections indicate that the demand for global plastic production will double or triple by 2050, and as much as 20% of new oil will be consumed in plastic production - a process that emits a significant amount of greenhouse gasses.
The challenge is that it's less expensive for companies to purchase new, high-quality plastics than to invest in recycling programs, resulting in an ongoing demand for virgin plastic, with a staggering 400 million tons produced annually. Despite this, the use of recycled plastic can be an efficient and eco-friendly alternative, especially when dealing with blended materials such as textiles, where enzymes can be an excellent solution.
This is where Protein Evolution comes in. Our team of leading scientists built technology that can break down various forms of plastic waste, including textiles, into the original components, unlocking the potential of plastic waste to be infinitely recyclable. With this breakthrough, we hope to enable the world’s largest consumer brands to meet their sustainability commitments, without compromising on quality of materials or cost.
Founding Protein Evolution
Our revolutionary technology wasn't developed overnight - it all started with a team of brilliant scientists within the 4Catalyzer ecosystem, the innovative start-up incubator founded by Dr. Jonathan Rothberg.
With more than 30 years of experience combining molecular biology with new technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning, Dr. Rothberg has become a world-renowned scientist and entrepreneur. His groundbreaking invention of next-generation DNA sequencing even won him a National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Obama.
In 2021, the 4Catalyzer family of companies was making huge strides in engineering enzyme technology. As we continued to develop this breakthrough technology, we began to see the potential for its application in the plastics industry. But to make it a reality, we needed to find a way to make it both cost-effective and user-friendly for plastics manufacturers.
Determined to make a difference, we partnered with leading polymer scientists and physical chemists to create the U.S.'s first successful lab-scale biological recycling facility in New Haven, CT. With our innovative technology, we can test, evaluate, and map tens of millions of unique enzymes to identify the most effective catalyst to transform plastic waste into the valuable chemical building blocks of new plastics.
We are at a boiling point. If we continue on the same path, the amount of plastic polluting our world could double by 2030. Companies large and small have made commitments toward reducing climate change — commitments consumers expect them to uphold — and we want to be their partner in achieving them.
At Protein Evolution, we are offering a real-world solution that can scale within the existing plastic’s supply chain. We are excited about deploying our technology and working with innovative brands to make plastic waste a relic of the past. Nature has given us the organisms and evolutionary processes that can break down plastic. Our technology will put them to work for the good of our planet.