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Soft drinks titans combine for new plastic recycling technology drive

Drinks companies Nestlé Waters, PepsiCo and Suntory Beverage & Food Europe have joined a consortium that aims to help support the circular plastics economy and promote the use of packaging that is more recyclable.

They will combine forces with green chemistry organisation, Carbios, and global beauty brand L’Oréal, which had previously founded the consortium to bring enhanced recycling technology designed and developed by Carbios to market on an industrial scale.

Carbios argues that it uses highly specific enzymes that can recycle much broader polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastics and polyester fibers feedstock than other recycling technologies. This process, it says, can create recycled PET that can be used for bottles and other forms of packaging.

Together, the consortium partners’ ambition is to increase the availability of Carbios’ processes to the wider market and bring more sustainable packaging into the mainstream.

Jean-Claude Lumaret, CEO of Carbios, said the contribution of the new consortium members “will accelerate our common ambition and help to industrialise our recycling technology, which brings a breakthrough solution in the treatment of plastic waste”.

Philippe Thuvien, packaging & development vice-president at L’Oréal, said his company is convinced “Carbios’ technology is a new step forward”, while Massimo Casella, head of R&D at Nestlé Waters, added it will help the organisation increase its recycled PET content in packaging “without compromising on quality”.

Retail and consumer goods companies have apparently stepped up their efforts to become more sustainable and to use greener products and processes in recent months, as consumers’ awareness and concern about the impact of their purchasing behaviour on the environment has steadily grown.

The major supermarkets in the UK, for example, have started introducing reverse vending machines, allowing consumers to receive vouchers or money back when they recycle bottles purchased in their stores.

Many in the industry, including, most vocally, Iceland managing director Richard Walker, hope it is the beginning of what will become a national deposit return scheme, where the government put the foundations in place for encouraging and rewarding plastic recycling among the general public.

Simon Lowden, president of global foods at PepsiCo, remarked: “PepsiCo is striving for a world where plastics need never become waste.

“Achieving that requires collaborative efforts to drive transformative change across the packaging lifecycle. The consortium offers us the opportunity to accelerate the development of this promising enzymatic recycling technology which, alongside mechanical and chemical recycling, can move us closer to a circular economy for plastics."

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