New French recycling technology to recycle 50 million PET food trays per year

Indorama Ventures, VALORPLAST, Klöckner Pentaplast (kp) and CITEO collaboration delivers a commercial recycling solution for monolayer PET trays

Thai-based Indorama Ventures Public Company Limited (IVL) with its facility Wellman France Recycling in Verdun, has been working on the PET trays recycling for 6 years and through an ongoing project with VALORPLAST and supported by CITEO.

The project has the objective to develop and validate recycling for monolayer and multilayer PET trays. VALORPLAST has collected significant quantities of post-consumer PET trays and several industrial runs have been conducted by Wellman. The produced flakes are being tested by several actors to develop high quality applications. Those tests have led by IVL to develop a commercially feasible recycling solution for monolayer PET trays with the collaboration of Klöckner Pentaplast. The new technology is processing monolayer PET trays used for food packaging (meat, produce and cheese) into a high-quality product, suitable for new tray production.

This new recycling innovation will see over 50 million post-consumer PET trays diverted away from landfill or incineration.

” 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.” for François LAGRUE, Head of Operations – Europe, Indorama Ventures Recycling Group said “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.”

Testing has now moved into commercial production. 500 tonnes of PET trays are now being processed monthly and transformed into a high-quality tray flake, which can be used to produce new trays. The purity of the flakes is comparable with high-quality bottle flake. A further scale up is foreseen, and the company plans to process 10KT of tray flake in 2022.

Catherine Klein, General Director of VALORPLAST said, “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 Ventures’ 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 said, “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.”

Written by Dominy Jones