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article imageUnilever unwraps plan for closed-loop food-grade plastic supply

By Karen Graham     Apr 5, 2018 in Technology
London - Unilever announced on Wednesday it is partnering with start-up company Ioniqa and Indorama Ventures to develop technology capable of converting PET plastic waste into virgin-grade materials available for use in food packaging.
Unilever is a British-Dutch transnational consumer goods company co-headquartered in London, United Kingdom and Rotterdam, Netherlands. Its products include food, beverages, cleaning agents and personal care products. It is the world's largest consumer goods company, selling products in about 190 countries.
In acting on its promise to have all of its plastic packaging being reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 Unilever announced its partnership with innovative recycling technology start-up Ioniqa and Indorama Ventures, the world's largest producer of PET resin, on the pioneering project.
Bales of crushed blue PET bottles and bales of various other plastics. In Olomouc  the Czech Republi...
Bales of crushed blue PET bottles and bales of various other plastics. In Olomouc, the Czech Republic.
Michal Maňas (CC BY 3.0)
PET is an acronym for Polyethylene Terephthalate, a widely used thermoplastic polymer resin of the polyester family. Worldwide, only around 20 percent of this material used in packaging makes its way to recycling plants with the rest either incinerated, disposed of in landfills or leaking into the natural environment.
The technology has already been successfully tested at the pilot stage. Unilever chief R&D officer David Blanchard said the technology could represent a major breakthrough to increase the rate of recycling of plastic products worldwide.
"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," said Blanchard.
"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."
Ioniqa s game-changing depolymerisation technology recycles PET plastic to its original raw material...
Ioniqa's game-changing depolymerisation technology recycles PET plastic to its original raw materials.
Ioniqa
Ioniqa Technologies
Ioniqa is a clean-tech spinoff from the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands. Founded in 2009, it specializes in creating value out of PET waste by using its proprietary circular technology. By creating an innovative closed-loop process, manufacturers can step away from the "take-make-dispose" model currently being used.
The company has focused on the development of Magnetic Smart Processes, which includes Magnetic Smart Materials and Separation Processes, a platform technology. While the technology is focused on PET plastics only - it could be applied in the future to other plastics and organic materials as well.
The bigger picture for Ioniqa is that its novel circular recycling process for infinite recycling of PET products includes bottles, textiles, and carpets. Thereby contributing to the circular economy. The process the company has developed looks very simply as shown in the video above.
The Indorama Ventures Europe (IVE) PTA facility is located in Rotterdam Europoort  The Netherlands.
The Indorama Ventures Europe (IVE) PTA facility is located in Rotterdam Europoort, The Netherlands.
Indorama Ventures
Indorama Ventures Public Company Limited
Headquartered in Bangkok, Indorama Ventures, founded by Indian businessman Aloke Lohia, is one of the world's leading producers in the intermediate petrochemicals industry and a leading global manufacturer of wool yarns. The company divides its products into three categories: feedstock, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and fibers.
As of 2017, the Company has 75 manufacturing sites in 25 countries crossing four continents: Asia, Europe, North America and Africa and is listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET). It has 15,000 employees and generated revenue of US 8.4 billion in 2017.
The company was listed in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI Emerging Markets) for the first time in 2017, confirming their excellent performance among the world’s leading companies in the chemical sector and its commitment to leadership in sustainability.
Packaging News reports a Unilever spokesman said: "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."
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