Asia – Unilever is to open a pilot plant in Indonesia later this year for the recycling of plastic pouches. The facility will test the long-term commercial viability of the ‘ground-breaking’ CreaSolv process, developed in collaboration with Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute.
‘With this innovative pilot plant we can, for the first time ever, recycle high-value polymers from dirty, post-consumer, multi-layer sachets,’ reports Dr Andreas MÃ¤urer, the Fraunhofer Institute’s department head of plastics recycling.
According to his calculations, the pilot plant will be capable of recovering 6 kg of pure polymers using the same energy as for the production of 1 kg of virgin polymer. The novel technology allows plastic to be recovered from sachets to create new sachets for Unilever products, thus ensuring ‘a full circular economy approach’.
The technology was initially developed as a means to separate brominated flame retardants from discarded electronics polymers.
‘Hundreds of billions of plastic sachets are thrown away globally every year,’ Unilever asserts. Indonesia is pinpointed as a ‘critical’ country, with most of its annual waste tally of almost 65 million tonnes being plastics. Roughly 1.5 million tonnes ends up in the world’s oceans.
‘We intend to make this technology open source and would hope to scale the technology with industry partners, so others – including our competitors – can use it,’ states David Blanchard, Unilever’s chief R&D officer.
It is claimed that, every year, between US$ 80 and US$ 120 billion is lost to the world economy because of inadequate recycling of plastics. ‘There is a clear economic case for delivering this process,’ Blanchard argues.
Unilever has pledged to manufacture packaging that is 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.