Coca-Cola European Partners investment builds on recycled plastics goal

By James Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

CuRe's managment team from left to right: Josse Kunst, CCO; Marco Brons, CTO; Mark Ruesink, CRO Chief Recycling Officer
CuRe's managment team from left to right: Josse Kunst, CCO; Marco Brons, CTO; Mark Ruesink, CRO Chief Recycling Officer

Related tags: Packaging & labelling

Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) has invested in recycling start-up CuRe Technology, as part of its journey towards making all its packaging 100% recyclable.

The funding has been provided through the CCEP Ventures innovation investment fund. The venture will help CuRe accelerate its ‘polyester rejuvenation’ technology from pilot plant to commercial readiness – at which point CCEP will receive most of the output from a newly built, CuRe licensed plant.

Once fully operational, CuRe will use its partial depolymerisation recycling process to transform opaque and difficult to recycle food grade polyethylene terephthalate (PET) to high-quality recycled PET (rPET).

Head of sustainability Nick Brown told Food Manufacture ​the process would remove impurities such as coloured pigments, then repolymerise or ‘rejuvenate’ the material into clear pellets of the same grade and quality as virgin oil-based PET.

“Due to high-level waste preparation capabilities from Morssinkhof Plastics, CuRe Technology can rely on a fully cleaned PET feedstock,”​ he continued. “This feedstock enables CuRe Technology to bypass the need for a full depolymerisation process.

Less energy intensive process

“Instead, CuRe Technology uses a partial depolymerisation process, just enough to purify the PET to virgin quality PET. As well as offering cost benefits, the partial depolymerisation process can be less energy intensive than full depolymerisation, offering lower associated CO2 emissions.”

CCEP hoped the partnership would remove more than 200,000 tonnes of virgin oil-based PET from its packaging portfolio a year and support its transition to a circular economy for PET.

CuRe’s depolymerisation technique was said to complement CCEP’s existing mechanical polymer recycling processes, allowing the drinks firm to upcycle lower grade PET that had previously been downcycled, incinerated or sent to landfill.

Commenting on the challenge of recycling PET packaging, Nick Brown added: “In the past, the difficulty with PET bottle recycling has centred on supply, but depolymerisation recycling technologies have the potential to upcycle lower grade PET that cannot currently be recycled via mechanical recycling means.

“These technologies could therefore help to significantly increase the supply of rPET, dramatically reducing the reliance on virgin oil-based PET.”

Joint sustainability action plan

As part of their ‘This is Forward’ joint sustainability action plan, CCEP 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.

By 2023 the drinks group said it would ensure that at least half the plastic in its PET bottles would 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.

Vice president for sustainability at CCEP Joe Franses said: “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 volumes that will help to accelerate delivery of our 100% rPET ambition for our PET bottles.”

CCEP’s investment in CuRe forms part of the company’s wider sustainability initiative, which will see the drinks producer roll out 50% rPET bottles across its portfolio in Britain by the end of September this year.

Meanwhile, drinks giant Diageo has unveiled the world’s first”​ 100% plastic-free paper-based spirits bottle,​ according to the company, which will debut with Johnnie Walker in early 2021.

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