Pioneering Digital Tools in the Waste Industry to Improve Recycling
Image: © Farknot Architect / Adobe Stock
HSSMI is a partner in the recently announced PET Full Loop project. Together with Veolia, Unilever and Charpak, HSSMI will seek 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. 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.
PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is the most common plastic material used in fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) packaging. However, the current UK PET recycling rate is low at 25%, of which food grade bottles form the majority. Nearly half of the collected PET food grade bottles are exported and the majority (70%) of those that stay in the UK are downcycled into other applications, including PET trays and non-food grade bottles, e.g. home and personal care bottles, both of which ultimately end up in the landfill.
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 non-food grade PET bottles and trays. PET trays are particularly difficult to recycle due to the variety in designs, material types and quality grades used on the market. This has created demand for a solution that would divert valuable non-food grade PET packaging away from landfills and into packs which do not require food grade material. 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 non-food grade bottles in a closed loop system.
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, and to optimise productivity.
Parallel to the development of the digital twin solution, the creation of the digital model will also 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.
Savina Venkova, Circular Economy Manager at HSSMI says about this exciting project, “HSSMI has been at the forefront of new developments in circular economy from a manufacturing perspective and we are excited to participate in this project. It represents an opportunity to improve the sustainability of packaging on the UK landscape. At the same time, it tests digital tools used by other industries in the waste industry. Any positive outcome in these tests has the potential to significantly improve the efficiency of recycling facilities across the UK.”
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