DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY (Nov. 15, 5:20 p.m. EST) — The Australian developers of a new PET bottle-recycling system are teaming up with an equipment manufacturer to take a cost-effective repelletizing process to North America and elsewhere.
Bottle maker Visy Industries Holdings Pty. Ltd. of Melbourne, Australia, has licensed its Ekopet technology to recycling equipment supplier Sorema Plastics Recycling Group of Lugano, Switzerland.
Sorema, a unit of Como, Italy-based Previero N. srl, will take the next steps in global process development: marketing the turnkey system to areas where recycling initiatives are taking time to roll out.
That includes the U.S. market for recycled PET. It is a market that might emerge from relative slumber due to recent initiatives by Coca-Cola Co. to recycle its soft drink bottles, and by the advent of PET-made beer bottles.
“We think we have found our way to feed U.S. applications for PET,” said President Aldo Previero of ADF Trading SA, the Lugano-based sales and support arm of Sorema. “This is not just any technical application, but a huge market opportunity. It will definitely allow us to bring in very dirty, mixed plastic material and make sense to recycle it.”
The two companies were buoyed by a nonobjection letter received in June by the Food and Drug Administration. That letter allowed them to move forward with plans to market the system for food packaging in the United States, said Edward Kosior, research and technology manager for Visy Recycling, the Reservoir, Australia-based Visy unit that offers recycling services.
The two companies signed a cooperation agreement in October, just before K 2001 in Dusseldorf, and spoke for the first time about the arrangement during an Oct. 30 interview at the show. Soremo has a U.S.-based sales office, called Common Sense Solutions Inc., in Chester, N.Y.
PET collection in the United States is growing, said Curt Cozart, general manager of the U.S. sales office.
“We need to keep finding economical ways to recycle material for high-quality end markets,” Cozart said at the show.
Visy's process, already used at its bottle plant in Reservoir, allows collected bottles to be separated, cleaned and then reprocessed into pellets without solid-stating, which sometimes is needed to use recycled PET in high-value applications.
Ekopet's proprietary extrusion process will use special Sorema equipment, and the European company also will provide equipment for washing, grinding and sorting.
Sorema plans to license the technology and its turnkey recycling equipment to customers in North America, Cozart said. The company claims its technology is the lowest-cost process in the world for any company recycling less than 10 million pounds of PET a year, but Previero did not quantify the savings.
With the new wash lines added, Ekopet can run in the neighborhood of 7,000 pounds of PET an hour, Cozart said.
Other recycling manufacturers also want to capture a growing market. Another global supplier, Erema GmbH of Ansfelden, Austria, received an updated FDA nonobjection letter in June for its PET system, called Vacurema.
The reactor-based system crystallizes PET, removing trace contaminants, said Karl Maas, executive vice president of Erema North America Inc. in Ipswich, Mass.
The Vacurema system sends PET through a reactor-extruder combination to make PET pellets. The United States is a major growth market for Erema, especially for polyethylene, Maas said.
“PE should be recycled 100 percent,” Maas said. “It's easy to clean, and the process of producing a high-quality recycled material is not that difficult.”
The Sorema-Visy system, which ranges in price depending on equipment needs, is aimed at increasing recycling rates to 30 percent for food products, said Stanley Sack, national general manager of Reservoir-based bottler Visy Plastics.
Visy reprocesses more than 55 million pounds of PET annually.
Sorema expects to reach sales of about $25 million this year. Sorema's new use of Ekopet will challenge the notion that PET recycling is expensive, Previero said.
“This gives us the ability to do this in an economical way,” Previero said.