Unilever, Indorama Ventures and Ioniqa have announced a new partnership that could see all polyethylene terephthalate (PET) scrap and post-consumer used PET bottles being recycled 100% into fresh PET resins. Indorama is the world’s largest manufacturer of PET resins while Ionoqa is a start-up technology company that is a spin-off from the Eindhoven University of Technology, Netherlands.
The partnership has been formed to exploit Ioniqa’s proprietary new technology that can convert any PET waste, including colored waste, back into transparent virgin grade material. This material can be used by Indorama to produce fresh PET resin grades. The technology has already been successfully tested in a pilot plant and is now set to be tried out on an industrial scale facility.
Although PET is used widely for a number of packaging applications, mostly as bottles for packaging of beverages and other liquid products, less than 20% of this material finds its way back into recycling plants. The rest is incinerated, consigned to landfills or ‘leaks’ into natural environments like oceans and marine habitats, seriously choking them.
Ioniqa’s new technology takes PET waste, including colored bottles, and breaks it down into basic molecules while separating the color and other contaminants. These molecules are converted back into PET granules that are as good as virgin grade resins at Indorama’s manufacturing plants. This is a major milestone in technology development and can lead to a fully circular economy for PET packaging. In 2017, Unilever committed that all of its plastic packaging would become reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.