Kirin, Mitsubishi Chemicals partner to develop PET bottles recycling facility

JAPAN – Japanese beverage manufacturer Kirin Holdings has announced that it will embark on a joint technical analysis and feasibility study into PET bottles using a process known as chemical recycling with its partner Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation.

Kirin being a major producer of plastic bottles said that the move is part of its ongoing commitment to promote continuous recycling of plastics in society.

As part of the project, the two companies will develop a chemical recycling system specifically designed for PET bottles.

The system will involve collection of used PET bottle products, converting them to raw PET material via chemical recycling and then producing new PET bottle products from the recycled materials.

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Kirin further noted that together with Mitsubishi, they will be partnering with a range of businesses around the world that are similarly committed to the principles of open innovation in plastic recycling.

According to Kirin, only a small portion of PET bottles produced in Japan are recycled with the bulk of those that make it to the recycler being used to make materials such as food trays, textile, among other products.

Most plastics are however not recycled and those that are used to make other products only mean that virgin material will have to be used to make PET bottles, an approach which does not necessarily constitute sustainable recycling.

In the chemical recycling process, used PET bottles will be processed through a depolymerization process, refined, and re-polymerized back to PET form reducing the need for demand for virgin raw materials for PET.

The chemical recycling process is touted to be more effective at removing dirt and contaminants from PET bottles and  if successful, the two companies have an ultimate goal of producing new PET bottles from a range of used PET materials.

Mitsubishi Chemical already operates PET production facilities in Japan and overseas, giving it a wealth of experience and technical expertise in this field.

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Work has already began on development of the technology and the two companies have a broader aim of building a fully operational chemical recycling plant by 2027.

This goal is consistent with the wider Kirin Group target of achieving 50% recycled plastic in domestic production operations by 2027.

The recycled plastics from the plant will be supplied to Kirin Group for use in PET drink bottles and the two companies anticipate that the products from the recycling facility may even be sold in the market.

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