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Kyungpook National University, the First Carbon-Neutral University, Transfers ‘PET Plastic Biodegradation’ Technology to CJ CheilJedang


Kyungpook National University (KNU) recently transferred ‘PET plastic biodegradation’ technology developed by Professor Kyung-Jin Kim (School of Life Sciences) to CJ CheilJedang (CEO Eun-seok Choi), signing a business agreement for technology transfer and joint research.

To meet the continual increase in demand for high-quality recycled PET, Korea currently imports recycled PET from Japan and other countries. Last year, data from the Ministry of Environment showed that 10%, or 28,000 tons, of the 290,000 tons of waste PET produced in Korea were recycled as high-quality PET. Through the implementation of mandatory regulations for removing labels and recycling transparent PET bottles, government ministries have also encouraged the use of domestically recycled PET.

The technology developed by Professor Kyung-Jin Kim improves enzymes from biological resources to decompose PET plastic. This method is not only more eco-friendly than other regeneration methods, but is also able to recycle pieces of colored PET of relatively low-quality to 100% raw material of PET. This research was carried out as an eco-friendly, bio-based technology development project by the Ministry of Science and ICT, and the technology transfer agreement was carried out with support from the Korean Intellectual Property Office (Intellectual Property Revenue Reinvestment Project) and the National Research Foundation (University’s Creative Asset Commercialization Project).

With this technology transfer, Professor Kim plans to continue research and development (R&D) in Zien Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of KNU's holdings company, with CJ CheilJedang.

Professor Kyung-Jin Kim states, "In order to effectively solve the problems in recycling plastic, the ecosystem needs to perceive plastics like trees. Biodegradation techniques are essential in this context. The presently transferred technology uses enzyme engineering methods to develop artificial enzymes that can decompose plastic. PET raw materials through biodegradation can not only be recycled into nonwoven fabrics or cotton, but also into sheets, fabrics, and transparent PETs. Moreover, PET raw materials can also promote the decomposition of environmentally isolated waste."

Won-Hwa Hong, President of KNU, says, "As this technology transfer is the first step in universities and companies working together to industrialize domestically renewable PET, we hope projects of resource circulation such as this will become core projects in realizing our goal of carbon neutrality."

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