Technological watch

Drinks bottles from landfilled plastic waste / European bottler trials Dutch start-up's technology / Recyclate content to rise to 50%

Drinks bottles from landfilled plastic waste / European bottler trials Dutch start-up's technology / Recyclate content to rise to 50%In line with plans by Coca-Cola (Atlanta, Georgia, USA; to boost the proportion of recycled PET in its drinks packaging to 50% by 2030, the US soft drink giantâ??s largest European bottler, Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP, Uxbridge, UK;, is focusing on increasing the supply of suitable input material.
To this end, the bottler is funding the scale-up of a process developed by start-up CuRe Technology (Emmen, the Netherlands; to upgrade the quality of hard-to-recycle PET and polyester waste. The ongoing trials utilise waste that normally would be landfilled or incinerated â?? such as films, trays, clothing, and coloured packaging.
The bottlersâ?? goal is to phase out all petrochemically produced plastic bottles up to 2030 (Photo: PIE)
In a method the start-up calls â??polyester rejuvenationâ?, the CuRe process first cleanses and partially depolymerises the waste and removes colour to create transparent PET pellets suitable for manufacturing new drinks bottles.
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The output is sent to Coke in Atlanta for scrutiny, and if the technology continues to turn out materials that meet the US manufacturerâ??s standards, it could soon be produced in a European plant, CuRe says.
A study commissioned by the Emmen-based company found that the process results in roughly 65% lower greenhouse-gas emissions compared with the production of fossil fuel-based virgin PET.First plant could be onstream in 2025Following the investment of an undisclosed sum in 2020 to support CuRe Technologyâ??s R&D roadmap and pilot plant and the ongoing pilot trials, CCEPâ??s venture capital fund is now backing efforts to take the process to commercial readiness.
The project participants estimate that an industrial scale 25,000 t/y production facility using the technology could be on stream in Europe by 2025. Coca-Cola Europacific Partners says it could expect to draw a â??significant amountâ? of that output; however, this will represent only a fraction of the currently 200,000 t/y of the polyester it needs to produce bottles in Europe.
If output of the new facility meets expectations, CCEP plans to build another plant before the end of the decade. At present, packaging represents around 40% of Coca-Cola Europacific Partnersâ?? carbon footprint, the company says, largely because it still uses oil-based virgin plastic.
Related: Coca-Cola boosts sustainability in North America and Italy
The bottlersâ?? goal, which matches the Coca-Cola groupâ??s worldwide target, is to phase out all petrochemically produced plastic bottles up to 2030. In 2022, CCEP made nearly half of its bottles from recycled plastic and bioplastics.
â??This new technology being developed by CuRe is critical to improve access to recycled material for bottles,â? says Wouter Vermeulen, Coca-Colaâ??s senior director of sustainability and public policy in Europe.
Joe Franses, vice-president of sustainability at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, estimates that plastics recycled using the CuRe technology could meet about 25% of the bottling companyâ??s need by the end of the century, with traditional recycling methods satisfying around about 70%.
Currently, manufacturing PET bottles from conventional plastic recyclate can cost 50% more than using petrochemical input, Franses notes, adding the company he hopes making the bottles with CuReâ??s technology will not cost significantly more than using conventional recyclate.23.05.2023 [252805-0]

Publication date: 23/05/2023



This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870292.