“Around the world, there is now general agreement that the only possible development model capable of delivering a ‘zero waste’ future to the world is the Circular Economy. Today, however, there are only a few cases of closed-circuit systems that can take a material that has reached the end of its originally-intended useful life, and make it new again, without generating more waste.
The race is on to develop more such systems. Nowhere is the pressure greater than in the plastics packaging sector. That pressure is particularly strong in Europe. Not surprisingly then, some of the most important responses to that pressure are coming from European organisations.
The European Union is cracking down on plastics waste, as it pushes forward its plans for the Circular Economy. It is limiting the use of single-use plastics and setting tough targets for use of recycled materials.
Under the Single-Use Plastics Directive, PET bottles will have to contain at least 25% recycled PET (so-called rPET) by 2025, rising to 30% by 2030. It is estimated that, to meet the 2030 target, the EU will require double its current rPET reprocessing capacity.
Today, less than 60% of bottle PET is collected for recycling; and only 6% makes it back into new bottles. To make the EU’s targets achievable there is a clear and strong need for new and improved PET recovery and recycling technologies. Fortunately, moves are being made to meet that need.
A ground-breaking technology for the production of PET bottles entirely out of post-consumer waste has been developed. This fully integrates two processes that are normally kept separate: the creation of process-ready material from prewashed flakes coming from used bottles; and the production of new bottles (or at least the preforms that are later blown into bottles) from the flakes.
rPET is in itself an important contribution to the Circular Economy. But this process integration brings additional important advantages in terms of sustainability, since it is much more energy-efficient than traditional methods.
The integrated process, called XTREME Renew, was developed and patented by SIPA, a leading specialist in PET bottle processing technologies based in northern Italy, in collaboration with Austrian recycling technology specialist EREMA.
XTREME Renew is capable of using almost 30% less energy than a conventional PET preform production system; CO2 emissions are almost 80% lower. Compared with traditional systems producing rPET containers, the emissions reduction is around 18%. In addition to this, XTREME Renew has a lower requirement on warehouse space that can amount to as much as 20%.
XTREME Renews starts with EREMA’s Vacurema technology, which decontaminates and removes moisture from the flakes under vacuum. This technology uses less energy than alternative systems. In addition, it improves the colour of the processed material and keeps levels of acetaldehyde (a degradation product that can affect taste of bottled liquids) very low. The Vacurema system also creates a highly homogenous melt, even if input material has variable viscosity.”