gr3n is an innovation technology company that developed a breakthrough technology enabling the chemical recycling of PET/polyester. Treating plastic waste with gr3n technology would result in the production of plastic building blocks, which could be reused to produce virgin material. gr3n technology would effectively allow the circularity of PET/polyester, which in this way could enjoy an infinite life.
PET/polyester is one of the most used plastic, with an overall yearly production in excess of 70M tons. Thanks to its versatility PET/polyester enjoyed in the last decades a growth rate higher than the other plastics and is set to grow even more in the next years, with a CAGR of some 8%, substituting other plastics and finding usages in several applications.
Two-thirds of PET/polyester annual global production are used to produce fibers and textile, as polyester is by far the most used synthetic fibers (some 80%). The balance is used to produce packaging, whose main application is the plastic bottles for water and carbonated or non-carbonated soft drinks.
Nowadays only slightly more than 10% of PET/polyester is recycled. In fact, the current technology, known as mechanical recycling, has technological constraints that limit its scope. Mechanical recycling cannot treat polyester, deeply colored and opaque packaging, coupled plastics packaging, and so on. It could effectively treat only colorless and light blue colored bottles or containers 100% made of PET.
gr3n technology is based on chemical recycling, which, instead of cutting down the waste into small rPET flakes, as mechanically recycling technology does, depolymerizes the PET/polyester in its monomers: PTA and MEG. These would be used again into a new polymerization process to produce virgin material, which in its turn could become polyester textile or packaging.
gr3n technology could be applied to all kind of PET/polyester waste streams (polyester, coupled packaging, opaque and deeply colored, …), virtually be able to address 100% of global production.
gr3n technology is based on the application of microwaves to the material in order to catalyze the reaction and to obtain the monomers in a profitable way. The main advantages of gr3n technologies are:
- reduces reaction time from 180 to less than 10 minutes
- operates in continuous
- obtains the same raw materials used for virgin PET polymerization, with a lower cost
- is suitable for the treatment of coupled polymers, colored packaging, and polyester
- reduce by 67.4% the energy consumption and by 88.9% the carbon footprint
Gr3n has been established in 2013 as a university spin-off and on the basis of studies in chemical recycling dated back in 2011.
After the realization of a pilot reactor in 2014, gr3n has been awarded 2M€ through a European Union Horizon 2020 project for the construction of the first industrial-scale reactor in 2015. In 2017 gr3n has been awarded a second Horizon 2020 projects for an overall amount of some 10M€ in order to construct the first plant exploiting its technology.
The plant would have a demonstration-scale with an overall capacity to treat 1,000/1,500 tons of PET/polyester waste and should be completed in the late 2019/early 2020. www.demeto.eu
Gr3n already involved several stakeholders of the PET/polyester value chain, establishing an Industrial Advisory Board, which includes relevant corporates (among which Ikea, Nestlé, Unilever, H&M, Adidas, …) and will steer the development of the technology during the project.