Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), the world’s largest independent Coca-Cola bottler, has taken an important step on its journey towards 100% rPET for its plastic bottles by funding CuRe Technology – a recycling start-up which seeks to provide a new lease of life for difficult to recycle plastic polyester waste.
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.
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 of a total of over 200,000* tonnes of virgin oil-based PET from CCEP’s packaging portfolio a year and support the transition to a circular economy for PET packaging.
CuRe Technology – a start-up, created and led by a consortium of world-leading recycling innovators and experts 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 depolymerisation recycling process to transform opaque and difficult to recycle (ODR) food grade PET to high quality recycled PET (rPET) that can be used again for food and drink packaging in one continuous process on the same site.
Towards a Circular Economy
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 in order to make a circular economy for PET a reality.
Depolymerisation recycling technologies complement existing mechanical polymer recycling processes. They have the potential to upcycle lower grade PET that cannot currently be recycled via mechanical recycling means and is instead currently downcycled, incinerated or sent to landfill. These depolymerisation 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 the 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 (figurative future sources of PET in Western Europe: 70% derived from mechanical recycling with 25% from depolyemrisation recycling and 5% PET from plant-based renewable sources, all while remaining 100% recyclable*).
About CuRe Technology
CuRe Technology uses a partial depolymerisation process – shortening the polymer chains just enough to allow the removal of many impurities and to rejuvenate food grade PET to high quality rPET - and can be less energy intensive than full depolymerisation 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. Due to the modularity of the process, the longer term ambition for this technology is to upcycle all polyester waste streams including product to product rejuvenation of carpets and textiles.
Joe Franses, Vice President, Sustainability at Coca-Cola European Partners said: “CuRe is an exciting technology start-up 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 volume that will help to accelerate delivery of our 100% rPET ambition for our PET bottles.”
As part of their joint Sustainability Action Plan, This is Forward, Coca-Cola European Partners and Coca-Cola in Western Europe have pledged that by 2025, Coca-Cola will: collect a can or bottle for every one it sells and ensure that all its packaging is 100% recyclable and by 2023 will: ensure that at least 50% of the content of its PET bottles will come from recycled content, accelerating towards its ambition to use zero oil-based PET in its PET bottles in the future, using instead 100% recycled or renewable content.
Josse Kunst, Chief Commercial Officer at CuRe Technology said: “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.
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.”
*By 2019, CCEP was already using 60,000 tonnes of rPET in its bottle and has committed to using 50% rPET by 2023.
**Plant-based renewable plastics are made from the converted sugars found in plants.