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Unilever committed to all of its plastic packaging being reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.
Unilever committed to all of its plastic packaging being reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

Unilever has partnered with start-up company Ioniqa and the largest global producer of PET resin Indorama Ventures to pioneer a new PET plastic recycling technology for use in food packaging.

Ioniqa has developed a proprietary technology that is able to convert any PET waste - including coloured packs - back into transparent virgin grade material. The technology has successfully passed its pilot stage and is now moving towards testing at an industrial scale.

Only around 20% of PET worldwide makes its way to recycling plants with the rest either incinerated, disposed of in landfills or leaking into the natural environment. Through its R&D Foods team, Unilever has partnered with Indorama Ventures and Ioniqa, a spin-off from the Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands, to tackle this challenge.

Ioniqa’s new technology takes non-recycled PET waste - like coloured bottles - and breaks it down to base molecule level, while separating the colour and other contaminants. The molecules are converted back into PET which is equal to virgin grade quality at Indorama’s facility.

If proven successful at industrial scale, in future it will be possible to convert all PET back into high quality, food-grade packaging. The three partnering companies believe that this fully circular solution could lead to an industry transformation, since the new technology can be repeated indefinitely.

In 2017, Unilever committed to all of its plastic packaging being reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. Unilvever’s Chief R&D Officer David Blanchard said: “Indeed, making the PET stream fully circular would be a major milestone towards this ambition, not just helping Unilever, but transforming industry at large.”

Aloke Lohia, Group CEO of Indorama Ventures added: “Our approach is not limited to our own operations, but we take the entire supply chain into account. We look forward to leverage this state-of-the-art technology that contributes to tackling the global issue of waste.

Tonnis Hooghoudt, Founder and CEO of Ioniqa summed up by stating: “Through our collaboration, Ioniqa’s innovative technology can turn PET waste into a truly circular material which holds value after disposal by consumers, helping to clean up the planet.”

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