Trade Resources Industry Views Unilever Partnership Aims to Convert Pet Waste Into Virgin Grade Material

Unilever Partnership Aims to Convert Pet Waste Into Virgin Grade Material

Consumer goods firm Unilever has collaborated with start-up firm Ioniqa and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) resin producer Indorama Ventures to pioneer a new technology that can turn PET waste into virgin grade material for use in food packaging applications.

Ioniqa has developed an advanced technology, which can turn any PET waste, including colored packs, into transparent virgin grade material.

The technology, which has completed its pilot stage, will be tested at an industrial scale.

PET is largely used in producing plastic packaging, and only up to 20% of the total material is recycled and the remaining material is either incinerated, disposed of in landfills or leaked into the natural environment.

Unilever, via its R&D foods team, has collaborated with Indorama Ventures and Ioniqa, a spin-off from Netherlands-based Eindhoven University of Technology, to deal with the issue.

Ioniqa’s new technology adopts non-recycled PET waste such as colored bottles and breaks it down to base molecule level, helping to separate the color and other contaminants.

Later, the molecules will be converted back into PET, which is similar to virgin grade quality at Indorama’s facility.

If it is successfully tested at industrial scale, the PET material will be converted back into food-grade packaging in the future.

In 2017, Unilever decided that 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.”

Indorama Ventures Group CEO Aloke Lohia said: “We aspire to be a world-class chemical company making great products for society, and this partnership is fully aligned with our vision. Our approach is not limited to our own operations, but we take the entire supply chain into account, including what happens to our products after use.”

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