The FMCG giant is partnering with start-up company Ioniqa and Indorama Ventures – one of the largest global producers of PET resin.
Ioniqa has developed a proprietary technology that is able to convert any PET waste – including coloured packs – back into transparent virgin grade material.
The technology has successfully passed its pilot stage and is now moving towards testing at an industrial scale.
A Unilever spokesperson told Packaging News there is high confidence that this technology can be rolled out on an industrial scale.
“This is based on the success of the work that’s already been done with our partners Ioniqa and Indorama to cover all the critical steps in scaling up the process. The industrial implementation of this technology is backed by the expertise of our partner Indorama, who is a global industry leader in PET production.”
The spokesperson added that the company estimates that it can have circular PET ready for use by the third quarter of 2019 and will share this with other companies who are also keen to reduce plastic waste.
“We believe this technology has the potential to revolutionise plastic recycling and transform the industry at large – creating an effective after-use PET plastics economy, helping to drive increased collection and reducing leakage of waste plastics into the environment.”
PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) is widely used to produce plastic packaging, yet worldwide only around 20% of this material makes its way to recycling plants with the rest either incinerated, disposed of in landfills or leaking into the natural environment.
Ioniqa’s new technology takes non-recycled PET waste – like coloured bottles – and breaks it down to base molecule level, while separating the colour and other contaminants. The molecules are converted back into PET which is equal to virgin grade quality at Indorama’s facility.
If proven successful at industrial scale, in future it will be possible to convert all PET back into high quality, food-grade packaging.
In 2017, Unilever committed to all of its plastic packaging being reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.
Unilever chief R&D officer David Blanchard said: “We want all of our packaging to be fit for a world that is circular by design, stepping away from the take-make-dispose model that we currently live in. This innovation is particularly exciting because it could unlock one of the major barriers today – making all forms of recycled PET suitable for food packaging. Indeed, making the PET stream fully circular would be a major milestone towards this ambition, not just helping Unilever, but transforming industry at large.”
| A PackagingNews release | || April 05, 2018 |||