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Axens, IFPEN and JEPLAN to demonstrate and commercialize a process for the recycling waste PET

| By Gerald Ondrey

Axens, IFP Energies nouvelles (IFPEN; both Rueil-Malmaison, France) and Jeplan, Inc. (Tokyo, Japan) have recently signed a joint development and commercialization agreement in order to develop, demonstrate and commercialize an innovative polyethylene terephthalate (PET) monomer recycling process for all types of waste PET-based materials, including bottles, films, trays or textile (polyester).

This new process, called Rewind PET, involves an optimized,  glycolysis-based PET depolymerization combined with specific purification steps aiming at removing all organic and inorganic compounds present in waste PET. The product is a purified BHET (bis(2-hydroxyethyl) terephthalate) monomer, ready to be used in a PET plant and produce again any type of PET, from fibers to food grade resins.

The partners can demonstrate a strong track-record in the field: Jeplan has operated the first ever industrial PET bottles chemical recycling plant, called Pet Refine Technology (PRT: 22,000 ton/yr), in Japan. In 2018 Jeplan also started-up a 2,000 ton/yr demonstration plant, called Kitakyushu Hibikinada Plant (KHP) in Japan, aiming at textile to textile recycling. While in the past 6 years, IFPEN and Axens have developed a process able to recycle and upgrade colored and opaque PET bottles into clear food grade PET.

Now, Jeplan, Axens and IFPEN are putting together their operating, engineering and technological background and will leverage the 2,000-ton/yr demonstration plant of Jeplan in order to accelerate the development and demonstration of their joint flexible process. With the support of the work at IFPEN facilities in France and the demonstration unit, the partners target to be ready for the worldwide licensing by Axens of the Rewind PET process within the end of 2022.

In the meantime, the three partners will continue to closely work with the actors of PET packaging and textile industries to validate the quality of the recycled PET, ensuring that the full process and logistics chain are safe, robust and economically viable, and set up the first industrial projects.

According to Pierre-Franck Chevet, chairman and CEO of IFPEN, “This reflects IFPEN’s commitment to address society’s growing expectations in terms of reducing plastics waste in line with public policies and plastics industry commitment. IFPEN strategic approach combine plastics waste recycling with sustainable solutions to maximize renewable bio-based chemical in order to achieve long term target of GHG emissions reduction in the downstream sector.”

Masaki Takao, CEO of Jeplan, declares “Jeplan will continue to enhance the delivery of sustainable recycled finished products through its BRING Technology, with the involvement of consumers. Jeplan will also leverage its operational experience at KHP and PRT plants to support the adopters of the Rewind PET process and the development of new industrial project. This French/Japanese partnership between our three companies will symbolize an important achievement of our two countries in the field of circular economy.”

Jean Sentenac, CEO of Axens, is convinced that “this flexible, high-performance process will answer the PET packaging and textile industries needs to reach their ambitious recycling targets at the 2025–2030 horizon. Beyond licensing, Axens will propose to Rewind PET customers a global offer, from the delivery of turn-key modular units to a full support for the operation of this new process. Axens is strongly committed to develop efficient solutions for the circular economy.”