American soft drink group Coca-Cola is investing in the Dutch company Ioniqa. The latter is going to commission a pilot plant to recycle PET, a common plastic, next year. For Ioniqa, the investment represents recognition of its new technology.
Ioniqa, a spin-off from the Eindhoven University of Technology, has developed a method for the high-quality recycling of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) of all types and colours. It has already received a number of awards for the innovation. A couple of years ago, our journal included the Ioniqa technology in our list of The Best of 2016.
Down to molecular level
The company breaks down the plastic to molecular level to create purified polymer building blocks, which can be used as a raw material for high-quality PET. It’s seen as a breakthrough for the industry, because until now no more than 10% of PET material has been recycled on average. The sticking point is the difficulty of removing dyes and other contaminants during mechanical recycling, which leaves the recycled PET darker and darker, and eventually unusable for processing into bottles and packaging.
The American investment is intended to accelerate scaling-up of the recycling technology, according to both parties in a joint press release. Ioniqa is currently building the first PET recycling plant in Geleen. Completion is scheduled in mid-2019.
Ioniqa CEO Tonnis Hooghoudt sees the investment deal with Coca-Cola as an important step in launching the recycling technology on the market. ‘With the pilot plant we still have to prove that the technology works, but personally we’ve got no doubts that it does. What the deal with Coca-Cola also means is that the world leader in using PET bottles believes that our technology is promising enough to invest in, and that the company is also interested in having a licence if it’s shown to work. That will open lots of doors for us,’ he says.
Coca-Cola says that the investment reflects the global vision of the soft drinks group that all packaging must use at least 50% recycled material from 2030 onwards. Ioniqa already signed up Unilever as a partner earlier this year. Unilever’s goal is to use only fully reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging from 2025 onwards.
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