In 2020, Axens, Ifpen and Jeplan entered into a partnership to develop and license a recycling process, called Rewind PET, that is claimed to be able to recycle all types of waste PET, especially those difficult to recycle mechanically. With the support of the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (Ademe), this collaboration has resulted in the construction, commissioning and recent start-up of their Rewind PET semi-industrial unit, which modifies and expands Jeplan’s existing Kitakyushu Hibikinada Pilot (KHP) demonstration plant, in Kitakyushu-city, Japan. The production capacity of the semi-industrial unit keeps the same capacity of the KHP demonstration plant before modifications, at 1,000 t/a.
The aim of this unit is to show future industrial customers how the innovative PET recycling process, developed by the three partners, can be integrated into their own production and recycling facilities. This is a key step for the three partners in view of the commercialisation (licensing) by Axens, which is intended to start by the end of 2023 once the process has been fully validated. The Rewind PET process is intended to produce a high-quality, virgin-like, recycled PET, suitable for all PET applications including food contact packaging or textiles. An event was held at the semi-industrial unit on October 24th to celebrate its launch.
The process involves a continuous depolymerisation of PET by glycolysis, followed by a deep purification of the obtained monomer, BHET (Bis(2-Hydroxyethyl) terephthalate). Its major advantage for manufacturers lies in its ability to separate all additives and colourants to restore a pure BHET monomer, which can easily be polymerised again in existing (or new) polymerisation plants, say the developers. It can be used to process all types of waste PET, including coloured and opaque bottles, multilayer trays, packaging film and polyester textiles. This solution is the result of more than years years of development at Axens, Ifpen and Jeplan, and of the synergy established by the three partners for over three years now. It is intended to help the PET industry meet its targets for the integration of recycled materials, complementing mechanical recycling and to contribute to reaching Europe’s target of 30% recycled content in PET-made packaging by 2030.