Ioniqa (www.ioniqa.com) is a cleantech company specialized in depolymerization of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) polyester waste into virgin-like monomers. PET is a plastic that is widely used for water and soft drink bottles, food packages, clothing and carpets. With the production of pure PET-monomers, Ioniqa’s process can be repeated endlessly with no degradation in final PET quality. This circular solution fits seamlessly into the existing PET production infrastructure, while treating PET waste streams not suitable for mechanical recycling. Initially focusing on sorter reject flakes from bottle sorting as a feedstock, Ioniqa’s contribution to the MERLIN-projects aims to indicate the feedstock robustness of the technology by showcasing its feasibility to up-cycle multi-layer PET trays.
With about 17% of all plastic packaging in the EU, multi-layer plastic packaging waste is a significant part of the current plastic waste stream. Multi-layer packaging is produced to combine functionalities of distinct materials such as barriers against moisture or oxygen – all this to increase food product shelf-life. In certain PET packaging applications multi-material is used, a good example are trays used for convenient and fresh products. According to Eunomia1, in Europe 20% of all PET goes to these rigid packaging applications (mono- and multi-material trays), representing approx. 1MT PET in 2020.
In collaboration with Indorama, Ioniqa works on producing rPET from multi-layer packaging within the MERLIN-project. Specifically, Ioniqa will focus on the enhanced recycling of rigid multi-layer packaging, which has a different composition of contamination than the usual PET bottle sorter reject feedstock. The basis for the work within MERLIN is Ioniqa’s existing process for the depolymerization of PET, which is initially designed to treat feedstock with mainly contaminants related to colour, bottle caps and labels. By changing the feedstock, from sorter reject to multi-layer trays, new polymer contaminants are introduced in the process and their impact is assessed so necessary adjustments to the process can be designed. In addition, Ioniqa will develop the recovery of the PE and PP non-PET fractions which will be further valorised by CEA.
Based on the improved understanding on the PET multi-layer trays feedstock with data gathered in the laboratory, it is expected that minor adjustment will be made on our 1000L batch reactor facility. This demonstration facility is used by Ioniqa to challenge their process with new feedstocks and gain insights on scaling towards 10kta. Also, the set up enables BHET-monomer production in quantities to evaluate the rPET quality upon polycondensation by industrial parties. This is part of the MERLIN project, where Indorama will make rPET in WP3.
Ioniqa is a clean-tech spinoff from the Eindhoven University of Technology (The Netherlands), specialized in creating value out of waste by using its proprietary circular technology. With a cost-effective process, Ioniqa is able to close the loop for plastics, starting with PET plastics. Via a licensing business model, this sustainable solution for minimizing PET waste can be accessible for the whole Plastic Value Chain. This award-winning innovation transforms all types and colours of PET waste into valuable sources for ‘virgin-quality’ recycled PET. Up-cycling processes for other types of plastic (polycondensates e.g.; PEF, PLA, PEN etc) are being researched and expected to be launched in the future. The technology is proven in Ioniqa’s 10kta monomer production facility in Geleen, the Netherlands. This site functions also as blue-print for future facilities located in the PET value chain.
1: EUNOMIA; PET MARKET IN EUROPE, STATE OF PLAY 2022 – PRODUCTION, COLLECTION AND RECYCLING