In 2017, Unilever committed to making all of its plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. This new technology can help make that possible.
Unilever has announced a partnership with start-up company Ioniqa, a clean-tech spinoff from the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, which is specialized in creating value out of PET waste by using its proprietary circular technology, and with Indorama Ventures, the largest global producer of PET resin.
Ioniqa has developed a proprietary technology that is able to convert any PET waste - including coloured packs - back into transparent virgin food grade material. The technology has successfully passed its pilot stage and is now moving towards testing at an industrial scale.
PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) is widely used to produce plastic packaging. Worldwide, only around 20% of this material is recycled – 80% is still either incinerated, disposed of in landfills or leaked into the natural environment. Ioniqa’s new technology takes non-recycled PET waste - like coloured bottles - and breaks it down to base molecule level, separating out the colour and other contaminants. The molecules are converted back into virgin grade quality PET at Indorama’s facility.
The technology, if proven successful at industrial scale, will make it possible in future 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.
As Chief R&D Officer David Blanchard commented: “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.
Calling the technology ‘state-of-the-art’, Aloke Lohia, Group CEO of Indorama Ventures, noted that Indorama’s approach is not limited to their own operations, but that they take the entire supply chain into account, including what happens to their products after use. “We therefore look forward to working closely with Unilever and Ioniqa to leverage this that contributes to tackling the global issue of waste, and enables us to go beyond the role of a polymer manufacturer,” said Lohia.
Tonnis Hooghoudt, Founder and CEO of Ioniqa summed up by stating: “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.”