Unilever has partnered with one of the world’s largest PET producers to pioneer a new technology which converts PET waste back into virgin grade material for use in food packaging.
The consumer goods company will be teaming with Thailand-based Indorama Ventures, which has 75 manufacturing sites across 25 countries and describes itself as a global leader in the production of PET resin.
The technology takes non-recycled PET waste 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.
Ioniqa, the Dutch start-up company which developed the technology, say it is able to convert any PET waste, including coloured bottled and packs, back into transparent virgin grade material.
The company’s CEO, Tonnis Hooghoudt, explained why he is partnering with Unilever and Indorama.
“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.”
The technology has successfully passed its pilot stage and is now moving towards testing at an industrial scale.
If proven successful at industrial scale, in future it will be possible to convert all PET back into high quality, food-grade packaging. The three partnering companies believe that this fully circular solution could lead to an industry transformation, since the new technology can be repeated indefinitely.
Unilever’s chief research and development officer, David Blanchard, explained that the technology helps Unilever towards its target of ensuring all packaging is fit for a circular world.
He said: “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.”