Coca-Cola, the US-based drinks company, has underlined its backing for a European Union project to recycle PET or polyethene terephthalate.
The firm is to join the advisory board of a project known as DEMETO, which was set up by the EU with the express aim of recycling PET, as part of the Horizon 2020 framework.
PET is used in many applications throughout the global packaging industry, including containers, bottles and jars. However, it has a very low recycling rate of just 20%, meaning that much of it ends up in landfill sites or incinerators when it needs to be disposed of.
Even Europe, which has a better plastic recycling record than North America, has a problem with too much PET waste. This is why DEMETO was set up, to address the issue and to create a safe, clean and ultimately profitable way of treating and recycling PET.
The advisory board of DEMETO is a committee made up of stakeholders who are not internal to the project, but who will interact with the Consortium to follow public developments and, above all, provide feedback and comments to steer the direction of its business development activities.
The advisory board already consists of 16 companies, including major brands involved in fashion, sportswear, personal care and drinks, in addition to waste collectors and recyclers.
Coca-Cola has said that it wants half of its PET plastic packaging to be made from recycled plastic by 2030.
The technical director of Coca-Cola’s Eastern European operation, Maria Luisa Polli, said that people expect Coca-Cola to be a leader when it comes to tackling litter and waste. She added that through the firm’s “World Without Waste” vision, the company was investing to make packaging waste a thing of the past.
This would be done by focusing on the packaging lifecycle, including how the bottles and cans are made through to how they are recycled, Polli added.
It is hoped that the inclusion of Coca-Cola, one of the largest users of PET in the world, will spur interest from other major global users of PET to look into using recycled plastic packaging in their products. Coca-Cola relies on PET for a huge array of applications, from packaging to transport, and it has long been an industry leader in enabling and supporting PET recycling.
DEMETO will build an industrial plant specifically designed for the chemical plastic recycling of PET. The advanced technology will allow for the recovery of PET back into its two basic components, ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid, without any degradation of the material. The process involves enhanced microwave radiation, which speeds up the reaction time, making it suitable for industrial application.
The resulting material is designed to be equal to virgin PET in terms of cost and quality, and it will offer a significant and viable alternative source of raw materials for the plastics packaging industry. The aim is to create future packaging from 100% recycled material at a price parity to virgin newly-made PET.