Technical Applications

Enzymes play crucial roles in Technical applications such as detergents, textile processing, pulp and paper processing, general chemical synthesis, and biofuel production in North America (US, Canada, and Latin America). Similar to enzymes used in other sectors (e.g., food and feed), enzymes improve sustainability of all aspects of modern manufacturing. For example, given their nature as proteins, they are readily biodegradable and have a low potential of causing adverse effects in humans (workers, consumers and their pets) and the environment (see the Sustainability page). Let’s explore some technical applications.  To learn more about how modern biotechnology will further expand the use of enzymes into exciting new areas please see the Biotechnology page.

Let’s explore some technical applications.


Enzymes that degrade proteins, fats and carbohydrates are important active ingredients in products such as laundry and dishwashing detergents, stain removers and industrial cleaning products, including medical device applications. Enzymes improve the breakdown of specific stains, enhancing the removal by other cleaning ingredients, making detergents more effective. Because enzymes can be optimized to work at lower temperatures, they also save energy through cold wash applications.  To learn more, please see “Enzymes the Cleaning Industry (PDF)”.

image of colorful textiles


The use of various enzymes (e.g., amylases, cellulases, pectinases, and lipases) has decreased the use of harsh chemicals in the textile industry, resulting in a lower discharge of waste chemicals to the environment, safer working conditions for textile workers, and improved fabric quality.

Pulp and Paper

Enzymes can also help paper makers reduce the use of harsh chemicals such as chlorine bleach. Hemicellulase enzymes such as xylanase can enhance the bleaching efficacy allowing a dramatic reduction in the consumption of chlorine by opening the pulp matrix to allow for better penetration of bleaching chemicals, and better extraction or washout of lignin and the associated dark brown compounds.  Enzymes can be used to improve the efficiency of using recycled materials for production of paper and boxes, by allowing the use of less fiber or lower quality fibers.

paper being made on rolls


Enzymes such as alpha-amylase, glucoamylase, invertase and lactase hydrolyze starch, sucrose and lactose into fermentable sugars. The sugars can then be fermented with yeast to produce ethanol. Ethanol fuels can be derived from renewable plant resources or from agricultural byproducts such as potato processing waste streams. Ethanol is used as a 100% replacement or as an extender of petroleum fuels. After biofuel production, the processed agricultural products can be fed into other production streams,  including animal feed.

BioFuels car refueling image

Technical Enzyme Regulations

USA map

In the US, enzymes for use in technical applications, for example cleaning enzymes, are regulated under the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA), which is administered by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Compliant enzymes can be found on the TSCA inventory.  Enzyme manufacturers should ensure that the enzyme, the enzyme production microorganism and all formulation ingredients are in compliance with TSCA.  Ingredients used in the formulation of these enzyme products must also be listed on the inventory.  The Federal Hazardous Substance Act requires precautionary labeling on containers of hazardous household products to help consumers safely store and use those products and to provide them with safety information in case of accidental exposure. Additionally, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), as authorized under the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA), develops safety standards and pursues recalls for products that present unreasonable or substantial risks of injury or death to consumers. Also, the CPSC, pursuant to the Poison Prevention Packaging Act (PPPA), oversees the requirements for household substances to be packaged in child-resistant packaging.

map of canada

In Canada, cleaning products containing enzymes are regulated under the Consumer Chemicals and Containers Regulations (CCCR) by Health Canada which establishes classification criteria, labeling, and packaging requirements for chemical products used by consumers. In addition, technical enzymes are regulated under the Canadian Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is jointly administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and Health Canada (HC).

map of south americaIn the majority of Latin American countries chemical control legislation is not yet well developed. Chemical control laws are generally limited to the regulation of listed toxic and hazardous substances. Enzymes used in technical applications (e.g., textiles, pulp/paper, biofuels, laundry detergents, etc.) would not be listed as hazardous chemicals in these countries and therefore not regulated under such laws. However, in some countries national inventories are under development and it is likely that current Global Harmonized System (GHS) classifications of enzymes as potential respiratory sensitizers may be taken into account. In addition, some specific technical applications are regulated at the national level. For example, in Brazil, the Agencia Nacional de Vigilancia Sanitaria (ANVISA) is the regulatory body that oversees the registration of detergent enzymes for medical cleaning. Moreover, some final applications of technical enzymes are regulated, e.g., formulated laundry detergents require a notification process at the Health Surveillance Agency in some countries.