Loop Industries, Suez partner to produce food-grade R-PET pellets in Europe

Author: Matt Tudball

2020/09/10

LONDON (ICIS)--Sustainable plastics technology company Loop Industries and waste management major Suez have signed a joint partnership to build a PET chemical recycling plant in Europe with a capacity of 84,000 tonnes/year of food-grade recycled polyethylene terephthalate (R-PET) pellets, Suez announced on Thursday.

The plant, dedicated to PET and stated to be the largest in the world, has the potential to produce 4.2bn food-grade beverage bottles made from 100% R-PET per year.

Final site selection is targeted to be completed by mid-2021, with commissioning projected for 2023. It was not clear if the plant will reach commercial scale by 2025 in order to meet the EU’s target for 25% recycled content in all PET beverage bottles by 2025.

ICIS data from the annual survey of the R-PET market puts European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)-approved R-PET food-grade pellet usage at 350,000 tonnes/year based on 2018 data, so this will be a significant addition to European capacity.

A spokesperson for Suez confirmed to ICIS the EFSA agreement procedure will be conducted at the start of plant operation, in order to supply food grade PET. The plant will be fed by material from Suez's European sorting centres, and recycled using Loop's low-energy depolymerisation technology.

In terms of target markets and audience, the spokesperson said the R-PET pellets produced at the plant will be used to produce packaging such as water or soda bottles, trays and shampoo bottles, amongst others. Clients are expected to be local and global brand owners of consumer goods (food and beverage, healthcare, for example) who have targets and requirements for integrating recycled content into their packaging.

Currently, plastic produced from chemical recycling processes does not count towards the EU 2025 goal although ICIS understanding is that this will undergo review.

“ICIS project the use of food grade R-PET would need to triple in order to meet the 25% recycled content target set by the SUP Directive. The suggested capacity of this plant would go some way to improving the undersupply of food grade R-PET in the European increasing regional supply by over 20%, assuming this technology is approved by EFSA and the chemically recycled product is permitted to contribute to EU recycle targets,” Helen McGeough, senior analyst and global analyst team lead, Plastic Recycling said.

There are many details yet to be confirmed but this would bring a significant amount of chemical recycling capacity to the market within a five-year timeframe, potentially contributing to the markets 2025 goals.

Loop Founder and CEO Daniel Solomita said: "The Infinite Loop technology creates the infrastructure countries need to be able to eliminate plastic waste and increase recycling rates. Loop’s expansion is tailored to our customers’ needs allowing them to meet and exceed their ambitious targets for recycled content in their packaging, but also to have the ability to recycle their packaging infinitely, without having to compromise quality.”

Jean-Marc Boursier, Group SEVP - France Region and COO said: “Highly convinced by the complementarity between mechanical and chemical recycling solutions, we are thrilled to be part of this innovative project with Loop Industries as it will expand our offers and our solutions improving the economic and environmental performance of our industrial customers, but also contributing to a sustainable resource management.”

Using Loop’s technology, the facility will be able to claim savings of 180,000 tons.year of CO2, compared with virgin PET production from a traditional petrochemical process. These savings are equivalent to approximately 418,000 bbl of oil.

Additional reporting by Mark Victory

Click here to see regulatory targets and a list of chemical and mechanical recyclers on the ICIS Circular Economy topic page.