Vietnam plant to recycle food-grade PET

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HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM (Updated July 25, 11:30 a.m. ET) — Vietnam’s Thanh Tai Gas Co. is investing US$15 million to set up what it says is the country’s first complete PET recycling plant with the capability to produce FDA-approved food grade material, using equipment from American supplier Bepex International LLC.

Thanh Tai plans to have the first line operating by January, with a second parallel production line set up later, Bepex said in a July 11 statement. The system will have capacity to recycle up to 1.5 billion PET bottles a year.

Thanh Tai, based in Ho Chi Minh City, said it was building the factory because PET bottles are rapidly replacing glass bottles in the country, creating a solid source of supply. It estimated that about 200,000 metric tons of PET was consumed in the country in 2010, and that the market is growing about 25 percent a year.

‘‘In Vietnam, there isn’t any a complete recycling plant and the demand for drinking beverage is very large in the market with a population of 87 million,’’ the company said in an email.

The facility will be built about 30 kilometers outside of Ho Chi Minh City, in Long An Province, and will have about 70 workers.

The company said it will collect PET from throughout Vietnam, with about half of its material sold in the country and half exported. Major markets include film, fibers, resin and bottle preforms.

Bepex, based in Minneapolis, Minn., said it was the first of its new BePET bottle recycling systems sold in Southeast Asia.

Thanh Tai officials said they wanted technology that could produce material for a range of applications, including food grade but also fiber and carpet.

Thanh Tai, which has about US $50 million in annual sales, said it is one of Vietnam’s largest suppliers of systems for home gas consumption, with about nine percent of the market.

In September, it plans to start manufacturing plastic composite gas cylinders in Vietnam, using technology it has licensed from Sweden.

The company has diverse business interests, including recycling polypropylene and various grades of polyethylene, manufacturing plastic boxes and steel gas cylinders, and it has a warehouse business for storage of general imported and exported products.

Bepex makes industrial scale process equipment for the food, chemical, mineral and polymer industries.

Bepex said it sees growing demand for bottle-to-bottle and food contact recycled PET in Asia, and said as brand owners like Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo increase their requirements for recycled PET, bottle producers will look for other sources of supply.

“As the B2B market increases, producers of recycled PET flake and pellets are looking to be ahead of this demand curve,” said Rob Grady, Bepex’s director of marketing for thermal products. “Investing in PET recycling plants that can meet the current demand of the industrial markets with the ability to meet the current and future demand of the B2B market is a critical consideration.”

Bepex said its system provides the flexibility to produce multiple grades of recycled PET from one production line.