Innovative technology enables circularity for difficult-to-recycle PET plastic waste
ALPLA Group, an international plastic packaging and recycling specialist, joins a new consortium for chemical recycling of PET. The consortium intends to speed up the commercialisation of enhanced recycling technology, BP Infinia, which turns opaque and difficult-to-recycle PET plastic waste into recycled feedstocks.
Leading companies operating across the polyester packaging value chain – including businesses involved in the manufacture, use, collection and recycling of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic packaging – today announced they have formed a new consortium that aims to help to address the problem of plastic waste by accelerating the commercialisation of BP Infinia enhanced recycling Technology.
The consortium intends to combine the capabilities and experience of its members – packaging and recycling specialist ALPLA; food, drink and consumer goods producers Britvic, Danone and Unilever; waste management and recycling specialist Remondis; and energy and petrochemicals producer BP – to develop a new circular approach to dealing with PET plastic waste.
Georg Lässer, Head of Recycling at ALPLA said: ‘ALPLA is delighted to join this cross-functional project with partners from the entire value chain. It completes our intense activities besides mechanical recycling and focuses on post-industrial PET waste, difficult-to-recycle PET packaging and PET thermoform trays. With BP in the lead, we have a very strong and highly experienced partner that contributes with knowledge about virgin polyester production.’
Rita Griffin, BP Chief Operating Officer Petrochemicals said: ‘BP is experienced in developing and scaling up technology and we’ll do this again with our innovative BP Infinia process. But we know we cannot create circularity on our own. That’s why we are thrilled to be working together with industry leaders to develop and prove a practical business model that can hopefully contribute to making all types of polyester waste infinitely recyclable.’
Avoid downcycling as well as landfill and incineration
PET is a plastic widely used for rigid food packaging and drinks, personal care and homecare bottles. It is a lightweight, durable and versatile material and one of the most collected and recycled types of plastic. Of the PET plastic bottles collected globally, more than 75 per cent are recycled, but only 12 per cent of those collected make it back into new bottles. The remainder is currently lost from the bottle-to-bottle loop, as it is used for other applications which are usually disposed of directly after use to landfills or incinerators, due to lack of separate collection.
The consortium members believe by joining forces they can speed up the commercialisation of the technology, infrastructure and demand needed to process billions of opaque and difficult-to-recycle PET bottles and food trays that are currently disposed of each year, including those that are difficult to recycle by current conventional recycling methods.
About BP Petrochemicals
BP’s petrochemicals business manufactures and markets products that are produced using industry-leading proprietary technology, and are then used by others to make essential consumer products such as food packaging, textiles and building materials.
BP has developed an enhanced recycling technology, BP Infinia, that enables currently unrecyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic waste to be diverted from landfill or incineration and instead transformed back into new, virgin-quality feedstocks. In October 2019, BP Petrochemicals announced plans to construct a $25 million pilot plant in the US to prove the technology on a continuous basis before before progressing to full-scale commercialisation.
 Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation: The New Plastics Economy, Napcor.
 Based on Wood MacKenzie Chemicals Data. PETcollection rates are based on bottle consumption alone; of the 27 million tonnes of PET produced for food and drinks packaging, 23 million tonnes is consumed as bottles and 4 million tonnes as thermoformed products, such as food trays. In 2019, it is estimated that some 13 million tonnes of bottles are collected globally and converted into 10 million tonnes of post-consumer resin. Of that, 1.6 million tonnes is used for bottles.
 Recycling a PET bottle back into a new PET bottle.
 Source: BP calculations based on production of recycled PTA from multiple facilities – amounting to a scale equivalent to a typical virgin PTA plant of around 1 million tonnes – would require total feedstock of many millions of tonnes of opaque and difficult-to-recycle PET packaging. Based on the average weight of specific packaging types suitable for this technology (from 10 to 30 grams), this feedstock would equate to billions of packaging items.