SuperPET surges to the finishing line
After three years, the SuperPET project is now on the final straight. July of this year will see the end of this Krones project, supported by the EU Commission. Overall, Krones has achieved major successes here, and for the first time sold a recycling plant in Germany. We talked to Susanne Huber and Dr. Thomas Friedlaender, who have been in charge of the SuperPET project over the nearly three years of its existence, on what it has meant to them.
Ms Huber, to summarise things briefly for our readers: what’s essentially involved in the SuperPET project?
A large proportion of the non-returnable PET bottles circulating in Europe every year are returned not to the food and beverage industries, but to the textile sector. They are used for recovering energy, they end up in landfills, or they are recycled into granules for use outside the food and beverage industries. The European recycling market is already a highly sophisticated one in terms of technology, which is why it’s not easy to establish an innovative process in this field. It’s here that the EU’s Eco-Innovation Initiative comes into play, which has been supporting us in getting our resource-economical, energy-saving PET recycling process onto the market. The project has been scheduled for a three-year timeframe scheduled for a three-year timeframe , and has been tasked not only with introducing the relevant technology, but also with encouraging PET recycling throughout Europe in general.
In the PET recycling market, Krones offers an innovative, field-proven technology, with which we can omit the very energy-intensive process step of pelletisation. The number of melting operations needed to create actual bottles has been literally halved, since the manufacture of the preforms is part of the integrated approach inherent in the production concept, which is superior not only in terms of energy-economy, but also in reducing the amount of yellowish discolorations, thanks to the lower thermal stress involved – a definitely crucial advantage when PET bottles are repeatedly recycled.
Ms Huber, to sum up the past three years, how satisfied are you with how the project’s gone?
First and foremost, the project’s been a lot of fun. Thanks to excellent cooperation between the internal project team, various outside experts, and brilliant support from the EU, we’ve successfully introduced the process on the European market.
Dr. Friedlaender, what’s your own assessment of the last three years?
We’ve learned what barriers there are to market entry in this highly sophisticated market; that’s one important lesson for us. We shall, of course, continue to design-enhance our integrated technology even when the EU subsidies have ceased and work on establishing it as a sustainable solution in the beverage industry. We believe in this superior system, and will still be driving it forward even after the project has officially ended.