BP forms consortium to recycle PET packaging
© Jonas Marcos San Luis - Dreamstime.com

BP forms consortium to recycle PET packaging

Companies partner with goal to tackle plastic waste with BP’s recycling technology.

December 19, 2019

Several companies have announced the formation of a new consortium that aims to address the problem of plastic waste by speeding up the commercialization of BP Infinia recycling technology that was developed by London-based BP. Businesses involved in the partnership include those that manufacture, use, collect and recycle polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic packaging.

BP Infinia is designed to turn opaque and hard-to-recycle PET plastic scrap into recyclable feedstocks that can be used to make high-quality PET packaging with no loss in quality, according to BP. 

The new consortium plans to combine the capabilities of its members to develop a circular approach to handling PET scrap, BP Infinia reports. Companies involved in the consortium include Alpla, a packaging and recycling specialist based in Austria; Britvic PLC, a consumer goods producer based in the U.K.; Danone, a consumer goods producer based in Paris; Unilever, a consumer goods producer based in London; Remondis Group, a waste management and recycling specialist based in Germany; and BP, an energy and petrochemicals producer.

Of the PET bottles collected globally, more than 75 percent are recycled but only 12 percent of those collected are used to make new bottles, BP reports in a news release on the consortium. 

“The consortium members believe by joining forces they can speed up the commercialization 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,” BP states in its news release. “It is the intention that each member of the consortium will contribute resources and distinctive capabilities and experience in areas such as waste management and recycling, technology development, intermediate processing and product design to develop a business model that takes into consideration the infrastructure, supply chain and demand requirements of all parties that will be involved in creating a circular economy for polyester and PET.”

“In order to implement material circularity in PET packaging, we need new technologies for packaging that can’t yet be mechanically processed,” says Ralf Mandelatz, managing director of Remondis Recycling GmbH & Co. “We want this material resource to return into the circular economy; chemical recycling complements mechanical recycling and provides further possibilities to sustainable resource management. Remondis intends to contribute its specialist experience in the field of sorting and PET processing to the other consortium partners leading this European project.”

BP reports that other parties may join the consortium to further complement the expertise of the founding members.

“This is an exciting step towards a circular economy for the polyester industry. BP is experienced in developing and scaling up technology, and we’ll do this again with our innovative BP Infinia process,” says Rita Griffin, BP chief operating officer of petrochemicals. “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.”

Consortium members have expressed excitement about the new collaboration.

“Joining this consortium is an investment in the future of recycling technology, which is critical to keeping plastic in the loop,” says Marc Engel, Unilever’s chief supply chain officer. “By working together, we can help accelerate the industry towards a circular economy. 

“We’ve recently committed to halve our use of virgin plastic, reducing our absolute use of plastic packaging by more than 100,000 [metric tons] and accelerating the use of recycled plastic,” he continues. “We’ve also committed to help collect and process more plastic packaging than we sell by 2025.”

In October, BP also announced plans to construct a $25 million pilot plant in the U.S. to prove its BP Infinia technology on a continuous basis before progressing to full-scale commercialization. 

Tufan Erginbilgic, BP downstream chief executive, said in October, “We see our Infinia technology as a game-changer for the recycling of PET plastics. It is an important steppingstone in enabling a stronger circular economy in the polyester industry and helping to reduce unmanaged plastic waste.”