Innovation Story

15 Apr 2021

Recycle the unrecyclable: breakthrough technology can transform low-quality plastic into high-quality food-grade packaging

In 2019 the Coca-Cola Company unveiled their first ever sample bottle made partly using 25% recovered and recycled marine litter, the first of its kind in food and drink packaging and a concrete proof of concept of what ‘enhanced’ recycling technology can achieve in time.

This breakthrough was the result of a partnership between two EUROPEN members: The Coca Cola Company and Indorama Ventures, together with Ioniqa Technologies and Mares Circulares (Circular Seas).

The project demonstrated the transformational potential of revolutionary ‘enhanced’ recycling technology,  which is a full depolymerisation recycling technology that can recycle used polyester plastics (like the ones used to manufacture PET bottles, PET trays or clothes) of any quality, origin and color back to the high-quality and purity necessary for packaging in contact with food or drinks.

Depolymerisation recycling technologies use innovative processes that break down the polyester polymer into smaller components (known as monomers) and strip out impurities. The smaller components can then be 'reassembled' into a virgin-like polymer. This means that lower-grade polyesters that were often destined for downcycling, incineration or landfill can now be given a new life as PET bottles. It also increases the availability of recycled content, reducing the amount of virgin PET needed resulting in a lower carbon footprint.

This is a great example of what can be achieved through partnership and investment in innovative  technologies and a key step in building a circular economy for packaging.

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