L’Oréal invests in biotech plastics recycling initiative

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images \ (Irina Vodneva)
© Getty Images \ (Irina Vodneva)
Yesterday, the beauty maker announced its minority stake investment in Carbios, a green chemistry company working to solve environmental sustainability problems in manufacturing. The funds will help the company move its PET recycling technologies closer to industrial scale.

In April 2018, L’Oréal made headlines with the launch of its Seed Phytonutrients green beauty brand; the product portfolio of which includes hair care, skin care, and body care packaged in shower-safe paper bottles made by Ecologic Brands​. The packaging was selected for having “as little impact on the earth as possible,”​ according to a press release posted on loreal.com.

Seed Phytonutrients shows L’Oréal’s interest in including innovative new recyclable packaging materials in its business. But this latest move suggests the company may be equally interested in finding ways to make more of its conventional packaging materials recyclable.

“This participation demonstrates our support of new sustainable development technologies,” ​Barbara Lavernos, executive vice-president of operations at L’Oréal, tells the press. It’s an investment that is, according to Lavernos, very much “in line with our commitment that by 2025, 100% of our packaging will be recycled, recyclable or compostable, and more specifically, 50% of the plastic used in our packaging will be recycled or bio-sourced.”

Expanding the L’Oréal – Carbios partnership

In October of 2017, L’Oréal and Carbios partnered up to create a consortium on what’s called bio-recycling of plastics or bioplasturgy, the use of biological mechanisms to process plastics. Biorecycling specifically is the use of microbes or the enzymes produced by microbes to essentially digest plastics (or other materials), generating new usable or environmentally “harmless” molecules.

“We are proud to have cofounded this consortium with L’Oréal,” ​Jean-Claude Lumaret, CEO of Carbios, said in a 2017 press release about the consortium, adding, “Our enzyme technology provides a brand new solution for optimising the performance and life cycle of plastics.”

The amount L’Oréal invested in Carbios this month has not been made public. But it’s well known that the monies came from L’Oreal’s venture capital fund known as BOLD (Business Opportunities for L’Oreal Development). BOLD launched in December of last year and “invests in new business models in marketing, R&I, digital, retail, communication, supply chain and packaging and provides startups with L'Oréal's expertise, networking and mentorship,” ​according to the media release. The fund’s first investment was in Sillages Paris, a startup using AI and machine learning to develop custom fragrances.

Advancing PET recycling technology

Describing the thinking behind L’Oréal’s investment in green chemistry, Lavernos says, “Carbios is developing a pioneering plastic recycling technology, based on both circular economy principles and biotechnologies, and we are proud to support them in their development.”

Carbios has developed a technology using “highly specific enzymes that can recycle much broader PET [polyethylene terephthalate] plastics and polyester fibers feedstock than other recycling technologies.” ​And the new tech promises to generate recycled PET that’s comparable to new PET and equally suitable for use as packaging.



Deanna Utroske, CosmeticsDesign.com Editor, covers beauty business news in the Americas region and publishes the weekly Indie Beauty Profile column, showcasing the inspiring work of entrepreneurs and innovative brands.

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