Unilever has partnered with start-up Ioniqa and Indorama Ventures to trial a new technology which converts PET plastic waste back into food-grade plastic packaging.
Unilever claims the new technology is capable of turning even coloured PET plastics into transparent virgin-grade material.
The technology has passed a pilot stage and Unilever will now trial the method on an industrial scale, and the company claims that a successful trial could prove it is possible to convert all PET plastics back into high-quality food packaging in future.
Eindhoven-based Ioniqa developed the technology, which takes non-recycled PET waste and breaks the packaging down to a molecular level while separating the colour and other contaminants.
These molecules can then be converted to PET material, which was certified as ‘virgin-grade quality’ at PET resin producer Indorama’s testing facility.
Earlier this year, Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman called for food and beverage companies to tackle rising levels of against plastic waste, and the company committed to making 100% of its packaging fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.
Unilvever’s 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.”
Aloke Lohia, group CEO of Indorama Ventures added: “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.
“We therefore look forward to working closely with Unilever and Ioniqa to leverage this state-of-the-art technology that contributes to tackling the global issue of waste, and enables us to go beyond the role of a polymer manufacturer.”
Tonnis Hooghoudt, founder and CEO of Ioniqa said: “To scale up our unique solution for PET plastics, we are delighted to work together with partners like Unilever and Indorama Ventures.
“Through our collaboration, Ioniqa’s innovative technology can turn PET waste into a truly circular material which holds value after disposal by consumers, helping to clean up the planet.”
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