Creating a Closed Loop System for Plastic Packaging
HSSMI is undertaking the PET Full Loop project together with with Veolia, Unilever and Charpak. The project seeks to improve the state of recycling in the UK by developing the country’s first dual PET bottle and tray recycling facility over the next three years. If on-going trials are successful, the project is expected to benefit the UK recycling and waste industry as a whole by “closing the loop” on plastic packaging recycling with the creation of a new rPET grade material and by introducing new tools and methodologies that have proved beneficial in other industries.
Current Challenges in PET Recycling
PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is the most common plastic material used in fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) packaging.
While there has been a steady growth in the recycling infrastructure for food contact bottles (bottle to bottle closed loop), there are currently no facilities in the UK that are able to recycle PET trays. PET trays are particularly difficult to recycle due to the variety in designs, material types and quality grades used on the market. There is also the added complication of recycling trays which are frequently combined with bottles on bottle-only recycling lines This has created demand for a solution that would divert valuable PET packaging away from landfills and into packs The PET Full Loop project will aim to provide this solution by developing a new recycling facility that will be able to recycle 100% of clear, rigid PET, trays and bottles, in a closed loop system.
Building a Facility Digital Mode and Digital Twin to Experiment with Changes
HSSMI will leverage its expertise in applying digital tools in various industries to create a digital twin of the recycling facility. This is understood to be a novel approach for the waste industry.
The digital twin pairs the virtual and the physical world and provides opportunities to interact with individual machines, as well as to experiment with different future scenarios through data analysis and system monitoring. In this case, the main objective of the digital twin will be to create bidirectional communication between machines, enterprise systems and the digital model to monitor performance and, via machine learning algorithms, optimise productivity.
Parallel to the development of the digital twin solution, the creation of the digital model will allow Veolia to virtually commission different manufacturing equipment which will help prove out processes under forecasted production scenarios before committing to equipment procurement and installation.
HSSMI will also be delivering a high-level life cycle assessment aimed at quantifying the order of magnitude of the carbon, water, and energy impacts of different recycling modes.
PET Full Loop is a collaborative project between Veolia, Charpak, Unilever, and HSSMI, carried out with funding from Innovate UK’s Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging (SSPP) Challenge.
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