Amcor PET Packaging Europe/Asia has invested €18 million to expand its recycling plant in Beaune, France. The enhancements mean the plant will now be able to produce 21,000 tonnes of resin pellets each year from over 30,000 tonnes of post-consumer PET, equivalent to approximately 600 million PET bottles.
The expansion at Beaune is the result of co-operation between Amcor PET Packaging and the Bühler Technology Group. The resulting new recycling system is the first of its kind worldwide and has enabled the plant to treble production volume while significantly improving its cost effectiveness.
Production capacity of Amcor's SuperCycle food grade resin will increase from 6,000 to 15,000 tons per annum. In addition, Amcor has installed further capacity for 5,000 tons of NuCycle resin for non-food applications.
A brand new wash line has also been installed in a new building, together with warehousing to store the PET flake. Around 80 per cent of this flake will be processed on the three recycling lines at Beaune, while the remainder will be sold on to other users.
Amcor says its latest investment illustrates how advanced its PET recycling technology has become, capable of recycling even multi-layer PET bottles. The company claims that there are currently no other reliable sources for large, consistent, high-quality quantities of recycled PET in Europe.
Amcor claims that key to the success is the combining of two previously separate functions of the SuperCycle process into one continuous operation.
Firstly, in a ring extruder, the post-consumer PET material is dried and freed completely from any organic impurities. Immediately afterwards, in the continuous solid state polycondensation (SSP) process, the polyester is refined to plastic pellets of greater material strength and thus gains the same properties as virgin PET pellets.
The combination of these two functions increases output and reduces both energy consumption and production costs. The process is also environmentally compatible, since it is based exclusively on thermal and mechanical process stages without the need for chemical treatment of the material.
As well as helping to meet current and future environmental legislation, Amcor believes its new initiative also takes a common sense approach to recycling.
"When PET recycling began, the majority of post-consumer waste was converted into fibre, but there is a limited market for this material," explained Bruno Vincent, general manager, Amcor PET Recycling France. "The largest end-use for PET is beverage bottles, whereas fibre in Europe is only 25 per cent of total PET usage.
"Given these circumstances, and the fact that recycled PET production is expected to increase by 30 per cent in the coming years, it is simple, environmentally sound logic that recycled PET becomes part of the PET supply for beverage bottle production."
Vincent added that the Beaune facility also provides customers with a valuable competitive edge, since Amcor can now produce recycled PET even more efficiently and at a volume level where it can continue to invest in state-of-the-art facilities and technology. With legislation beginning to recognise the opportunities that bottle to bottle recycling can provide, this advantage for customers will become increasingly more visible.
For example, the new Eco-Tax in Belgium, which comes into effect on 20 March 2003, will penalise - and add significant cost to - any manufacturer not committed to recycling. The tax can be avoided if the packaging contains at least 50 per cent recycled content - an obvious incentive for fillers to use recycled PET.
Amcor PET Packaging is currently the leading producer of PET packaging in the worldwith 51 plants operating in 20 countries, two of which are bottle-to-bottlerecycling plants, as well as 16 facilities on-site with customers in six countries, plus three R&D Centres. The group produces PET preforms and bottles for soft drinks, water, juice, milk, hot-fill beverages, alcoholic beverages, food and non-food applications.