Unilever has announced a partnership with start-up company Ioniqa & the largest global producer of PET resin Indorama Ventures to pioneer a new technology which converts PET waste back into virgin grade material for use in food packaging.
Ioniqa has developed a proprietary technology that is able to convert any PET waste – including coloured packs – back into transparent virgin 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, yet worldwide only around 20% of this material makes its way to recycling plants with the rest either incinerated, disposed of in landfills or leaking into the natural environment. Through its R&D Foods team, Unilever has partnered with Indorama Ventures & start-up company Ioniqa, a spin-off from the Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands, to tackle this challenge.
Ioniqa’s new technology takes non-recycled PET waste – like coloured bottles – 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.
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.
In 2017, Unilever committed to all of its plastic packaging being reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. Chief R&D Officer David Blanchard said that Unilever is proud to support another sustainable packaging innovation.
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 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.”
About Indorama Ventures
Indorama Ventures Public Company Limited (IVL) is the largest producer of PET globally and the largest PET recycler in Europe. 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 USD 8.4 billion in 2017.
Indorama Ventures Public Company Limited (IVL) were listed in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI Emerging Markets) for the first time in 2017. The inclusion confirms IVL’s excellent performance among the world’s leading companies in the chemical sector and its commitment to leadership in sustainability.
Ioniqa is a clean-tech spinoff from the Eindhoven University of Technology (the Netherlands), specialized in creating value out of PET waste by using its proprietary circular technology. With its cost-effective process, Ioniqa is able to close the loop for plastics, starting with PET. This award winning innovation transforms all kinds and colours of PET waste into valuable resources for ‘virgin-quality’ new PET. Upcycling other types of plastic is being investigated.