Krones has confirmed to BeverageDaily.com that it has struck a deal to commission its first sustainable closed-loop PET recycling line for a German beverage firm, the sixth such line worldwide.
A Krones spokeswoman told this publication that the line for own-label beverage and food producer Stute Nahrungsmittelwerke – which will be installed in August – was capable of producing 500kg of rPET flakes per hours.
The SuperClean-PET-Flake process was able to produce flakes with a high degree of purity for use in new PET bottles, Krones claimed, and simplified the process by cutting-out additional steps demanded by conventional processes.
“With this process, Stute [which runs 13 PET lines and is moving away from carton packaging] plans to feed both PET bottles and preforms back into its bottle production operation. This also includes bottles that have already come into contact with the product.
“The recycling process washes and decontaminates the rejected PET, thus guaranteeing its suitability for future food-grade operations.”
Simplified flake production
Krones PET materials were first fed into a washing module, where label residues, glue, soluble dirt and sand were removed: bottles are ground and flakes pre-washed, with PET separated from lighter PO lid materials, dried and sorted by colour.
Flakes were then heated up in a decontamination module to what Krones calls the ‘final decontamination temperature’, significantly below the melting point of PET (allowing for energy savings versus pellet production processes).
A two-stage process ending in vacuum cleaning to get food-grade flakes was more efficient that standard PET recycling processes, Krones claimed.
“Stute wanted to create a sustainable, closed-circuit process within its own production facility right from the start.
“And of course, the sector is still living under the Damoclean sword of a politically inspired additional deposit on non-returnable PET. This extra burden may be evade only by a relatively high proportion of recyclate, as the PETCycle system goes to show.”
First lines in Bangladesh, Japan
Krones built one of its first bottle-to-bottle PET recycling lines in Bangladesh, for Akij Food & Beverage in 2009, and Dr. Thomas Friedlaender, head of the firm's product division for PET Recycling, told BeverageDaily.com that the recycling line had been available since 2008.
Asked why Krones had only secured its first German order for such a line now - but had seen previous orders in Japan and Bangladesh - Friedlaender said that an investment like Stute's necessitated a long-term feedstock supply. "Most customers look for at least a three-year perspective," he said.
The German deposit system generated a high collection rate, he added, but since bottles were often sold at auctions investors had to periodically fight to secure their feedstock. "That is not a matter of how the collection is organised (very efficient due to the deposit) but how the bottles are sold."
"Therefore, places with a less developed collection systems had more potential than Germany to start a recycling business," Friedlaender added.