Another PET recycler has received a letter of nonobjection from the Food and Drug Administration for a patented process to produce food-contact PET flake from containers collected from curbside recycling programs. United Resource Recovery Corp. of Spartanburg, S.C., received its letter Feb. 1, six months after Phoenix Technologies LP of Bowling Green, Ohio, received a similar OK.
While Phoenix may focus on U.S. soft drink customers, URRC initially wants to tackle the European bottled water market.
URRC President Carlos Gutierrez said its technology, called Hybrid-UnPET, takes an extra step to remove flavoring, making the process more acceptable for water bottles.
"We take contaminated material [and] we remove the flavor of soda so we can use it in water bottles — that's our main interest," Gutierrez said in a telephone interview from the Spartanburg plant. "In Europe it's not soda, it's water."
A plant now under construction near Zurich, Switzerland, already is licensed to use the technology, and URRC has another potential licensee in Mexico, he said.
URRC is seeking licensees because the company itself does not have the capability to produce commercial volume. The main business for its 10 million-pound-per-year site is recycling x-ray films, and URRC only has enough extra capacity to produce test quantities of Hybrid-unPET.
Gutierrez wants to build a commercial facility in the United States this year.
"We're a very small company and [developing this technology] has depleted our finances, but we finally got it," he said. "Recycling is not that profitable. You have to have it in the blood."
Gutierrez said the relatively low price of virgin PET resin in the United States is making it difficult for makers of post-consumer PET for food packaging.