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Managing Editor  | June 2017

Unilever plans on testing new recycling concept at Indonesian facility

Consumer goods producer Unilever has pledged to make 100 percent of its packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025 and recently announced a potential breakthrough in recycling technology with the CreaSolv Process, according to a press release.



Unilever is trying its new CreaSolv Process at a plant in Indonesia.
(Wikimedia Commons)


The technology was developed in partnership with the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV in Germany to impact the hundreds of billions of plastic sachets that are thrown away around the world each year.


The press release continued, “Sachets are extremely resource efficient and allow low-income consumers to buy small amounts of products that would otherwise be unaffordable to them. But without a viable recycling solution, sachet packaging ends up in landfill or as litter. As part of its Sustainable Living Plan, Unilever has long been committed to finding an alternative to throwing sachets away.”


The new CreaSolve Process was adapted from the technology that was used to separate brominated flame retardants from the polymers in electronic equipment that was being thrown away. The process recovers plastic material, which Unilever will then use to create new sachets.


An article from Plastics Recycling Update explained, “The CreaSolv process uses solvents to selectively dissolve targeted polymers so they can be separated from other plastics and contaminants. A precipitating agent is then used to recover the polymer from the solution so it can be recycled.”


David Blanchard, Chief R&D Officer at Unilever, said, “Billions of sachets are used once and just thrown away, all over the world, ending up in landfill or in our waterways and oceans. At the start of this year we made a commitment to help solve this problem, developing new recycling technologies. We intend to make this tech open source and would hope to scale the technology with industry partners, so others – including our competitors – can use it.”


He added, “There is a clear economic case for delivering this. We know that globally $80-120bn is lost to the economy through failing to properly recycle plastics each year. Finding a solution represents a huge opportunity. We believe that our commitment to making 100% of our packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable will support the long-term growth of our business.”


In order to test out this process and ensure its viability as a long-term solution, Unilever will implement CreaSolv at a pilot plant in Indonesia, which produces 64 million tons of plastic waste per year.


Dr. Andreas Mäurer, Department Head of Plastic Recycling at the Fraunhofer IVV said, "With this innovative pilot plant we can, for the first time ever, recycle high-value polymers from dirty, post-consumer, multi-layer sachets. Our aim is to prove the economic profitability and environmental benefits of the CreaSolv® Process. Our calculations indicate that we are able to recover six kilos of pure polymers with the same energy effort as the production of one kilo of virgin polymer." 

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