Unilever has announced a partnership with start-up company Ioniqa and PET resin producer Indorama Ventures to develop new technology which converts PET waste into virgin grade materials for food packaging use.
Ioniqa has created a proprietary technology that is able to convert any PET waste, including coloured packs, back into transparent virgin grade material.
PET is used to produce plastic packaging, yet only around 20% of this material is diverted to recycling plants with the rest either burned, sent to landfill or left to the environment, said Unilever.
It hopes that through its R&D Foods team, it will be able to utilise these partnerships to tackle this problem.
Ioniqa’s new technology takes non-recycled PET waste, and breaks it down to molecules, while separating the colour and other contaminants, the molecules are then converted back into PET which is equal to virgin grade quality at Indorama’s facilities.
This technology has passed its first stage and is now moving towards testing at an industrial scale.
If it proves successful at industrial level, it will be possible to convert all PET back into high quality food-grade packaging in the future, Unilever said.
The three partnering companies believe that this circular solution could lead to an industry transformation.
Unilever R&D chief officer 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.”