Green tech: French to recycle 50 mn PET food trays/year; CJ BIO/Natureworks to work on PHA/PLA solutions

French to recycle 50 mn PET food trays/year

Thailand-based Indorama Ventures Public Company Limited (IVL) with its facility Wellman France Recycling in Verdun, has been working on the PET trays recycling for six years and through an ongoing project with recycler Valorplast and supported by Citeo, a not-for-profit French company founded from the merger of Eco-Emballages and Ecofolio with a view to reducing the environmental impact of packaging. The project also involves packaging firm Klöckner Pentaplast, which will use the rPET for its packaging trays.

The project has the objective to develop and validate recycling for monolayer and multilayer PET trays. Valorplast has collected significant quantities of post-consumer PET trays and several industrial runs have been conducted by Wellman. The produced flakes are being tested by several actors to develop high quality applications. Those tests have led by IVL to develop a commercially feasible recycling solution for monolayer PET trays with the collaboration of Klöckner Pentaplast.

The new technology is processing monolayer PET trays used for food packaging (meat, produce and cheese) into a high-quality product, suitable for new tray production.

This new recycling innovation will see over 50 million post-consumer PET trays diverted away from landfill or incineration.

Testing has now moved into commercial production. 500 tonnes of PET trays are now being processed monthly and transformed into a high-quality tray flake, which can be used to produce new trays. The purity of the flakes is comparable with high-quality bottle flake. A further scale up is foreseen, and the company plans to process 10KT of tray flake in 2022.

François Lagrue, Head of Operations – Europe, Indorama Ventures Recycling Group said, “This new technology will mean that for the first time we have a circular recycling solution for PET tray packaging. This will lend significant support in realising the EU’s plastic collection and recycling targets.”

He added, “Tests were performed at all levels, including sorting, recycling and conversion. Ensuring the input met the right quality and purity levels is our top priority. Development of tray recycling has been a goal for some time. We are proud that – together with our partners – we have been able to develop a commercially and technically feasible process, that allows us to produce a dedicated rPET flake product for the food packaging market.”

Valorplast adds it has been involved for many years on PET trays recycling. This main project, hand in hand with Indorama Ventures’ Wellman site started in 2018.

In 2021, VALORPLAST managed the recycling of 168,000 tonnes of household plastic packaging. As an accelerator of the circular economy, Valorplast says it succeeded, last year, in recycling 70% of its packaging in France and 30% in nearby Europe. In 2021, the proportion of household plastic packaging resulting from this new system (PET trays included) represented 77% of the tonnages taken back and recycled by Valorplast.

Adam Barnett, President of the Food Packaging Division at Klöckner Pentaplast said, “We will be using this flake as part of our kp Tray2Tray initiative to include recycled content in our food packaging trays for the fresh food sector across Europe.”

CJ BIO/Natureworks to work on PHA/PLA solutions

Meanwhile in other news, CJ BIO, a division of South Korea-based CJ CheilJedang and leading producer of polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), and US producer of PLA NatureWorks have signed a letter of intent (LOI) establishing a strategic alignment between the two organisations and have announced that the two companies will work together to develop sustainable materials solutions based on CJ BIO’s Phact Marine Biodegradable Polymers and NatureWorks’ Ingeo biomaterials technology. The goal of the agreement is to develop high-performance biopolymers that will replace fossil fuel-based plastics in applications ranging from compostable food packaging and food serviceware to personal care, and beyond.

NatureWorks is a pioneer in the development of bio-based materials that reduce carbon impact and enable new end-of-use options with its Ingeo technology. As a company, it has developed many high-volume applications for PLA, it adds. In recent years, PLA has experienced significant growth as a bio-based material in a broad range of finished products. Due to its functionality, it has been used to replace petrochemical-based plastics, with 100% bio-based content, and enable end-of-use recovery options, including compostability and chemical or coated paper recycling. Both companies realise the potential to further enhance performance and end-of-use solutions for biopolymers and increase the level of adoption across many new applications.

By combining their expertise and technology platforms, NatureWorks and CJ aim to deliver next-generation solutions together. Initial development and collaboration are showing very promising results when using CJ BIO’s amorphous PHA in combination with Ingeo biopolymer.

CJ BIO is the world's leading supplier of fermentation-based bioproducts for animal nutrition, human nutrition, and biomaterials at its thirteen manufacturing facilities worldwide. The company recently announced commercial-scale production of PHA following the inauguration of a new production facility in Pasuruan, Indonesia. CJ BIO is today the only company in the world producing amorphous PHA (aPHA), including the first product named Phact A1000P.

Amorphous PHA is a softer, more rubbery version of PHA that offers fundamentally different performance characteristics than crystalline or semi-crystalline forms of PHA. It is certified biodegradable under industrial compost, soil (ambient), and marine environments. Modifying PLA with amorphous PHA leads to improvements in mechanical properties, such as toughness, and ductility, while maintaining clarity. It also allows adjustment in the biodegradability of PLA and can potentially lead to a home compostable product.

NatureWorks and CJ BIO will collect feedback from existing and potential customers across a range of applications and markets including packaging, food serviceware, and organics recycling management to understand the growing need for functional product requirements that also align with sustainability goals. These collaborations will inform the companies’ product and technology development roadmap. The two companies say that the LOI is the start of what is expected to be a long-term relationship between NatureWorks and CJ BIO and are aiming to sign a master collaboration agreement in the near future.


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