As part of its quest to wholly phase out the use of virgin PET in its bottles over the next decade, Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), the world’s largest independent Coca-Cola bottler, has invested in a young Dutch recycling company called CuRe Technology BV.
CuRe Technology, a collaborative venture between the Morssinkhof Group and the DuFor/ Cumapol Group, with strategic partners DSM-Niaga and NHL Stenden University of Applied Science, has developed a scalable solution to create a fully circular polyester chain. The start-up launched its pilot plant, which has a capacity of 20 kg/hr in a continuous process, on 1 July.
The funding from CCEP, through its innovation investment fund CCEP Ventures, will enable CuRe to accelerate its ‘polyester rejuvenation’ technology from pilot plant to commercial readiness.
Once the technology is commercialised, CCEP will receive the majority of the output from a CuRe-licensed, new-build plant.
“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,” said Josse Kunst, Chief Commercial Officer at CuRe Technology
While CCEP was already using 60,000 tonnes of rPET in its bottles by 2019, the company, in partnership with The Coca-Cola Company in Western Europe, has committed to using 50% rPET by 2023, accelerating to 100% rPET in the next 10 years. This will contribute to removing a total of over 200,000 tonnes of virgin PET from CCEP’s packaging portfolio a year and support the transition to a circular economy for PET packaging.
Once operational, CuRe has the potential to support this ambition. Its technology is based on the depolymerisation of lower grade PET that cannot currently be recycled via mechanical recycling recycling technologies. However, CuRe Technology uses a partial depolymerisation process in which the polymer chains are shortened just enough to allow the removal of many impurities and to rejuvenate food grade PET to high quality rPET. The modular process is said to be less energy intensive than full depolymerisation, with lower C02 emissions.
CuRe Technology will initially apply its end-to-end partial depolymerisation recycling process to convert opaque and difficult-to-recycle food-grade PET into high quality recycled PET that can be used again for food and drink packaging in one continuous process at the same site.
The CuRe funding from CCEP Ventures builds on existing strategic investments by The Coca-Cola Company to explore and support the scaling of ‘enhanced’ full depolymerisation recycling technologies.
“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,” said Joe Franses, Vice President, Sustainability at Coca-Cola European Partners.
“It also offers us the potential to access vital rPET volumes that will help to accelerate delivery of our 100% rPET ambition for our PET bottles.”