Coca-Cola Europe invests in groundbreaking polyester rejuvenation technology
CCEP Ventures funding for CuRe Technology supports progress towards eliminating virgin oil-based PET from its packaging
16 Jul 2020 --- Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), the world’s largest independent Coca-Cola bottler, has announced funding for CuRe Technology – a recycling startup that aims to provide a new lease of life for difficult to recycle plastic polyester waste. Through its innovation investment fund CCEP Ventures, CCEP will enable CuRe to accelerate its “polyester rejuvenation” technology from pilot plant to commercial readiness. Once the technology is commercialized, CCEP will receive the majority of the output from a CuRe-licensed, new-build plant, accelerating the beverage giant's transition to 100 percent recycled PET (rPET).
Once operational, CuRe has the potential to support CCEP’s ambition, in partnership with The Coca-Cola Company in Western Europe, to eliminate virgin oil-based PET from its PET bottles within the next decade. This will contribute to removing an estimated 200,000 tons of virgin oil-based PET from CCEP’s packaging portfolio annually and support the transition to a circular economy for PET packaging.
CuRe Technology – a startup created by a consortium of world-leading recycling innovators and experts and led by the Morssinkhof Group and the Cumapol/DuFor Group, with strategic partners DSM-Niaga and NHL Stenden University of Applied Science – will initially apply its end-to-end partial depolymerization recycling process to transform opaque and difficult to recycle (ODR) food grade PET to high-quality recycled rPET that can be used again for food and drink packaging in one continuous process on the same site.
CuRe’s modular design makes it adaptable to a range of difficult to recycle polyester waste streams and output requirements. While the startup will initially focus on providing a solution to opaque and ODR food-grade PET packaging, its modularity will enable it to process all polyester waste streams, including carpets and textiles.
The CuRe consortium built its first pilot plant in Emmen, the Netherlands. CCEP funding will facilitate the transition of the pilot plant to the demonstration plant stage, also based in Emmen, enabling the progression of the CuRe technology to a point of commercial readiness. The technology will then be licensed out globally to partners who want to “close the polyester loop” with CuRe.
Coca-Cola sets sights on 100% rPET
The CuRe funding from CCEP Ventures builds on existing strategic investments by Coca-Cola to explore and support the scaling of enhanced full depolymerization recycling technologies to make a circular economy for PET a reality.
Depolymerization recycling technologies complement existing mechanical polymer recycling processes. Such technologies have the potential to upcycle lower grade PET that cannot currently be recycled via mechanical recycling and is instead downcycled, incinerated or sent to landfill. These depolymerization technologies could play a role in significantly increasing the supply of rPET whilst also accelerating the transition to a circular economy for PET bottles by reducing reliance on virgin oil-based PET.
The Coca-Cola system in Western Europe is working towards a future source vision for its PET material which will help remove the need for virgin oil-based PET. By 2019, CCEP was using 60,000 tons of rPET in its bottles and has committed to using 50 percent rPET by 2023, accelerating to 100 percent rPET in the next decade. Figurative future CCEP sources of PET in Western Europe will be derived 70 percent from mechanical recycling, 25 percent from depolymerization recycling and 5 percent PET from plant-based renewable sources, while remaining 100 percent recyclable. CCEP’s plant-based renewable plastics are made from the converted sugars found in plants.
Transparent like virgin PET
CuRe Technology uses a partial depolymerization process – shortening the polymer chains just enough to allow the removal of many impurities and to rejuvenate food grade PET to high-quality rPET. This removes the need for rPET to be mixed with virgin PET to achieve a more transparent bottle.
The process can also be less energy intensive than full depolymerization, offering lower associated C02 emissions. “It’s like pressing a ‘reset’ button to partially break down plastic PET into its component building blocks to produce a high-quality rPET,” CuRe describes.
“CuRe is an exciting technology startup with transformational potential developed by an experienced consortium, making it an ideal investment for CCEP Ventures. Our investment in CuRe underlines our commitment to supporting innovations that have the potential to drive growth in our business and our sustainable packaging goals. It also offers us the potential to access vital rPET volumes that will help to accelerate delivery of our 100 percent rPET ambition for our PET bottles,” explains Joe Franses, Vice President, Sustainability at CCEP.
“Polyester is one of the world’s most reversible plastics and should not go to waste. In the pilot plant phase of the CuRe process, we were supported with a subsidy from the European Union and the three northern provinces of the Netherlands. Now our ambition to create an energy-efficient solution for product-to-product polyester transformation will be accelerated because of this funding,” adds Josse Kunst, Chief Commercial Officer at CuRe Technology.
“The support of CCEP Ventures will enable us to start with opaque and difficult to recycle food grade PET and take the first step towards our ultimate vision of recycling all polyester, again and again,” Kunst concludes.
By Joshua Poole
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