Indorama Ventures, VALORPLAST, Klöckner Pentaplast (KP) and CITEO have collaborated on a project aimed at developing and validating a commercial PET tray-to-tray recycling technology.

Indorama Ventures has been working on the PET tray recycling project for six years at its facility, Wellman France Recycling, in Verdun with VALORPLAST and supported by CITEO. The project is aimed at the recycling of mono- and multi-layer PET trays.

VALORPLAST says it has collected significant quantities of post-consumer PET trays, with several industrial runs being conducted by Wellman. The companies add that the flakes produced by the process are being tested by several actors to develop high-quality applications.

According to Indorama Ventures, these tests have led the company to develop a commercially feasible recycling solution for monolayer PET trays in collaboration with Klöckner-Pentaplast. The new technology reportedly processes monolayer PET trays used for food packaging, such as meat, produce, and cheese, into high-quality products suitable for new tray production.

The companies claim that the new recycling technology will allow over 50 million post-consumer PET trays to be diverted away from landfill or incineration.

Testing has apparently now moved into commercial production. The companies say that 500 tonnes of PET trays are being processed monthly and transformed into high-quality tray flakes, which they claim are comparable to high-quality bottle flakes.

The companies are planning to further scale up the technology with the goal of processing 10KT of tray flake in 2022.

François Lagrue, head of operations – Europe at Indorama Ventures Recycling Group, comments: “PET trays are essential to combat food waste. Their high barrier properties protect food for longer meaning fresh and safe food for all of us.

“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.

“This is a true value circle effort. 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.”

Catherine Klein, general director of VALORPLAST, adds: “We are delighted with the results of this ambitious project. It shows that the recycling of plastic packaging is really progressing.

“On the side of VALORPLAST, we have been involved for many years on PET trays recycling. This main project, hand in hand with Indorama’s Wellman site and started in 2018, leads today to an opportunity for industrial recycling for this type of packaging.

“Through the project, we are also working on solutions for multilayer PET trays. The next steps could be the game changer we look for.”

Adam Barnett, president of the Food Packaging Division at Klöckner Pentaplast, concludes: “We welcome this investment in Europe’s circular economy. By delivering a circular system for trays we ensure that valuable secondary raw material is not wasted.

“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. An exciting step change to creating and supporting true circularity.”

Earlier this year, Indorama Ventures acquired the PET plastic recycler, UCY Polymers CZ, in a bid to increase access to rPET and recycle over 1.6 billion PET beverage bottles per year by 2025.